N.Ireland politicians in Libya talks over IRA attacks
London - Politicians from Northern Ireland headed to Libya on Saturday for talks about compensating victims of IRA attacks during three decades of violence in the British province.
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s regime is believed to have supplied the Irish Republican Army (IRA) with weapons and explosives in the 1980s to attack civilians and soldiers in its fight against British rule of Northern Ireland.
Jeffrey Donaldson, a lawmaker from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who is among the six-strong party, said that while discussions had already been held on the issue, this would be the first face-to-face meeting with Libyan ministers in Tripoli.
He said the families of some victims were seeking individual compensation for their loss, but the visit had a wider aim.
"What we are also trying to achieve is the establishment of a peace and reconciliation fund that will help to promote peace in Northern Ireland and move us beyond the legacy of the conflict… and we believe the Libyans can contribute towards the establishment of such a fund.
"We will be putting the case directly to the Libyan government," he told the BBC before flying to Libya for the three-day trip.
Although members of the victims’ families were not invited for the talks, the fact that the visit was taking place was welcomed as a sign of progress in the campaign for compensation.
Lawyers for the victims said in a statement: "The victims view this as a significant step forward, as well as recognition by both countries that their plight will not be overlooked as Anglo-Libyan relations develop.
"They sincerely hope that, following the parliamentarian team’s visit, Libya will review its position toward them and appreciate that they wish to visit Libya in the spirit of peace and reconciliation."
Links between the IRA and Kadhafi are thought to stretch back as far as 1972, and Czech-made Semtex explosives understood to have been supplied by Libya was one of the IRA’s most lethal weapons in its terror campaign.
The IRA, which renounced violence in 2005 in a key move in the province’s peace process, wanted Northern Ireland to be part of Ireland and was the main Catholic militant group in the conflict which killed over 3,000 people.