By Stephen Dempster
A group of MPs and lords is demanding talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the plight of IRA victims seeking compensation from Libya, a BBC NI Spotlight programme reveals.
The victims have been fighting for reparation for two decades.
They want the North African country to be held accountable for supplying the IRA with explosives in the Troubles.
The government has always refused to go directly to the Libyans on behalf of victims to demand reparation.
A BBC NI Spotlight programme reports that, in the meantime, victims have died.
In one case, a campaigner took her own life. Family and friends blame the stress of caring for her injured husband and fighting for this cause.
Spotlight also reveals Westminster politicians have written to Mr Johnson asking him for a meeting and urging him to become involved.
The call has come after the Foreign Office announced in March it would not be approaching Libya for the compensation.
It says this is a private civil case.
Parliament’s Northern Ireland Select Affairs Committee has also written to the prime minister urging a change in policy.
Committee chairman Simon Hoare MP says: “It’s an embarrassing, indelible shame on the governments of this country that we have so badly let down our fellow citizens.
“If the foreign office is not just closing the door but battening down the hatches, then I think the next job has to be (to go to) Number 10 to say ‘Prime Minister, when you were foreign secretary, you thought this was the right thing to do’.”
As foreign secretary, Mr Johnson had agreed to send an envoy to Libya to talk about compensation. But this plan disappeared, after he quit the post in 2019.
During the Troubles, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi provided the IRA with hundreds of tonnes of arms, including Semtex – an explosive which increased the terrorist group’s bombing capabilities, in the 1980s and 190s.
In the mid-2000s Gaddafi paid compensation to other victims in other countries for his nation’s direct terror-attacks against them.
There is an argument that under international law, Libya was not accountable for the IRA’s activities, because its involvement was indirect – as a supplier of arms, not a perpetrator of attacks.
But victims and their supporters believe that, nonetheless, there is a case that Libya is culpable.
The MPs and lords have declined an offer from Mr Johnson for them to meet foreign office officials. They have told him they need to meet him.
While the UK government will not enter compensation talks with Libya, it says it will continue to urge Libya privately to address the issue with the victims for whom it has profound sympathy.
The Spotlight programme is on BBC One Northern Ireland at 22.45 BST on Tuesday 15 June.