North's politicians asked to unite on Lockerbie compensation bid

North's politicians asked to unite on Lockerbie compensation bid

Members of all political parties will be asked to back IRA victims’ compensation case against Libya during the first session of the Northern Ireland Assembly today.

Successive governments have already raised the issue of Libyan support for the IRA – including the supply of Semtex which was used by bomb-makers in their campaign of terror in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s – over the past two decades.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently added his voice to the chorus of demands for reparations from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

DUP Assembly member Jeffrey Donaldson said: “It would significantly strengthen our case if we are able to tell the Libyan government that we enjoy full political support for our campaign.

“This debate should not be viewed as a unionist versus nationalist issue as Libyan-sponsored terrorism made no distinction between Protestant and Catholic or unionist and nationalist.

“This motion should be considered in the context of victims being heard and their quest for justice being aided.”

The debate, in the name of Mr Donaldson and party colleague Nigel Dodds, supported the victims’ case against Tripoli and called on the UK government to apply diplomatic pressure to pay the compensation.

Mr Donaldson cited former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Chief Constable Hugh Annesley as calculating that in 1992 Libya was responsible for importing six tonnes of Semtex, 1,600 AK rifles, 300 machine guns, 500 hand guns, 20 SAM missiles and 50 rocket launchers used to kill and maim hundreds of people.

Financial assistance was worth €6.8m.

Earlier, Mr Brown said he would provide dedicated Foreign Office staff to assist the victims, and diplomats at the British Embassy in Tripoli would accompany and advise them when they travel to Libya to seek direct talks with Colonel Gaddafi within the next few weeks.

Mr Donaldson added: “There should be no softening in our attitude towards the Libyan regime until they compensate UK citizens from throughout our country who suffered at the hands of the terrorists that they armed and bank-rolled down through the years. We will continue to work hard on this issue.

“Regardless of the economics or oil, justice must be done for the UK victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorist acts.”

SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood said his party would be supporting payment of compensation to victims of paramilitary and state violence, including the Libyan and British governments.

An SDLP amendment to the DUP motion has been refused by Assembly staff.

Mr Attwood said the financial assets of criminal groups needed to be seized.

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