UK leader Theresa May faces demands for Libya terrorism fund

Backer of May government wants millions of pounds from tax on frozen Libyan assets to right 'terrible wrong'

Libya's leader Muammar Qaddafi, who died in 2011, backed the IRA with finance and arms. Reuters
Libya's leader Muammar Qaddafi, who died in 2011, backed the IRA with finance and arms. Reuters

Departing British Prime Minister Theresa May should use her final days in power to exploit Libyan assets frozen in Britain to pay victims of Irish republican terrorism, an influential MP said on Sunday.

The UK government confirmed last week that it secured £17 million in tax over the past three years from £12 billion of funds frozen since 2011, when ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed.

The money should be used in a compensation scheme for victims of the Irish Republican Army, said Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of a small Northern Irish party that has propped up Mrs May’s government.

The IRA fought a three-decade campaign in which hundreds of people were killed from the late 1960s to have the UK leave Ireland.

Qaddafi's Libyan regime supplied millions of pounds of arms and explosives to the IRA for its campaign against the British government.

“In the final days of her premiership, the prime minister should take decisive action and begin righting this terrible wrong,” Mr Dodds wrote in The Sunday Telegraph.

“The UK taxpayer should not be out of pocket for the actions of an evil dictator like Qaddafi.

"But if we wait until there is a political settlement with Libya then I fear many of the victims who suffered as a result of Libyan Semtex and guns will never see a single penny.”

The Libyan regime’s supply of Semtex explosive in the mid-1980s led to a deadly campaign of bombings across the UK.

High-profile targets included the Harrods store in London in 1983, in which six people were killed, and London Docklands in 1996 where two people died and tens of millions of pounds of damage was done.

British MPs in April called on the government to enter into direct talks with Libya to secure compensation for Qaddafi-sponsored terrorism.

The request was rebuffed as the government said the compensation issue would be better resolved when a divided Libya had a stable government.

“The Government has a longstanding position of not pursuing government-to-government negotiations with Libya on behalf of victims of Qaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism,” it said last week.

“A stable Libyan government would be more able to deliver effectively on these legacy issues.”

There have been complaints that victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism had been compensated in the US, France and Germany, but not in the UK.

Qaddafi agreed to a deal in 2008 to compensate US victims but British victims were not included.

“The Government needs to ask itself whether it is content to continue profiting from frozen Libyan assets while victims receive nothing,” said Simon Hoare, an MP whose committee has pressured the government on the issue.

Mrs May will step down as prime minister on July 24 after a leadership contest between current and former foreign secretaries, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson.

Her disastrous decision to call national elections in 2017 led to her Conservative Party losing a majority in the House of Commons.

Mrs May struck a deal with Mr Dodd’s Democratic Unionist Party to ensure support for key legislation.

Updated: July 1, 2019 02:08 AM

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