Enniskillen survivor asks Libyan prime minister to compensate IRA victims
Peter Robinson hands over letter to Libya’s premier Ali Zeidan on behalf of victim of Remembrance Sunday bomb attack.
A survivor of the Enniskillen atrocity has challenged the Libyan prime ministerto compensate victims killed by IRA bombs that were supplied by the late dictator Colonel Gaddafi.
Peter Robinson, the first minister of Northern Ireland, handed over a letter to Libya’s premier Ali Zeidan, who was attending the G8 summit in Lough Earne, from Stephen Gault, who was badly injured in the Remembrance Sunday massacre.
The Gaddafi regime supplied the Semtex explosive used in the IRA bomb that devastated the Co. Fermanagh town killing 11 people on Remembrance Sunday. A twelfth victim died after spending 13 years in a coma.
Gault wrote that he was disappointed that Zeidan would not be meeting with victims’ groups, on a he visit he said was a “momentous occasion in our country’s history.”
Libya supplied several tonnes of weapons to the Provisional IRA in the 1980s as “revenge” for Margaret Thatcher’s support for the US bombing of Libya in 1986.
Libyan logistical support for the Provisionals included anti-aircraft guns, flame-throwers, rockets, Soviet-made grenades as well as enough rifles to arm at least two infantry battalions.
However, Gaddafi’s supply of Semtex was his most significant “gift” to PIRA and the explosive was later used to set off many of the huge devices that devastated parts of London in places like Bishop’s Gate and Canary Wharf.
Gaddafi’s regime first started supplying PIRA with weapons back in the early 1970s when republican veteran and head of Sinn Fein’s finances Joe Cahill was caputed on the “Marita Ann” ship which was packed with Libyan weapons. But in the 1990s Gaddafi tried to reach out to the UK and rebuild relations. His government via the United Nations provided an entire inventory of everything the regime had given the IRA in the 1980s.
In a letter to the Libyan leader, Gault called on the premier to give his “immediate attention” to “legacy issues which, if unresolved, will mean that relationships … can never be as close as they have the potential to be.”
His letter went on: “For our part as families we are keen to support the efforts of the new Libyan regime, and we rejoice that a warmonger and tyrant is no longer at the helm of your country and that a democratic process is on the cusp of being born.”
A Downing Street spokeswoman would not confirm whether the two prime ministers would discuss the issue of compensation at their meeting, The spokeswoman said: “We are in touch with the Libyan regime about these legacy issues and these conversations happen at the highest level on both sides.”
A number of victims of IRA violence during the Troubles have launched legal actions against the Libyan government for compensation, on the grounds that the Semtex used in a number of high profile bomb attacks had been supplied by the former Gaddafi regime. They include victims of the Harrods explosion including a U.S. citizen caught in the IRA bomb attack in Knightsbride and other victims of other atrocities both in England and Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Sean Henry, manager of the Clinton Centre, a reconciliation initiative built on the site of the 1987 bombing next to Enniskillen’s war memorial, also welcomed Ali Zeitan’s visit. “Anything that sees people talking about a better future has to be positive. Talking is the only solution.” He added that he would welcome an opportunity to strengthen links between Northern Ireland and Libya, as two countries emerging from violent histories.