BELFAST, (Reuters) – British parliamentarians travelled to Libya at the weekend to press for compensation for families of Irish Republican Army (IRA) victims who say Muammar Gaddafi’s government helped arm the paramilitaries.
The campaigners say the Libyan authorities shipped Semtex explosives in the 1980s and 1990s to the IRA, which was fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland.
The delegation includes MPs from Northern Irish First Minister Peter Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose Labour Party is also represented in the delegation, said last month he supported the families’ campaign. “I hope that when they hear some of the stories they might understand what exactly these weapons of mass destruction and Semtex have done,” said Manya Dickinson, whose father was killed by an IRA bomb in 1990.
Gaddafi’s son said last month Libya would fight in court any claims for compensation by the families of IRA victims. Libya has, however, settled out of court with three American victims of IRA bombings.
Britain’s relations with Libya have been in the spotlight after the early release in August of a Libyan agent convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing in which 270 people were killed.
Britain has denied pressing the Scottish government to free Abdel Basset al-Megrahi to help improve business ties with Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves. But it has conceded that British business and other interests would have been damaged if Megrahi had died in a Scottish prison instead of being allowed to return to Libya.