As unionist calls for financial reparations from Libya goes into overdrive, the Director of Relatives for Justice is appealing to the families of nationalist and republican victims to keep their minds focused on uncovering the truth.
Mark Thompson was speaking after a delegation of MPs from the North, including the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson, returned from Libya at the weekend hailing their mission as a success.
However, Mark says that he wouldn’t bank on the Libyan regime forking out for victims of IRA violence.
“The Libyans aren’t indicating that they are going to provide a compensation package,” he said. “If the Libyans are minded to do anything, and that’s a big if, it appears that it may be an overall general package aimed at the community, the business sector and victims and survivors, it would be available to everyone.”
RFJ have been inundated with calls about the Libya issue in recent weeks and they have in turn, been in contact with Libyan officials, says Mark.
“Only half of the truth has been going to Libya, we have been providing them with the whole truth,” he said.
“Ever since the news of this Libyan action entered the public domain after the release of Al Magrahi, families, rightly and understandably, were outraged at the hypocrisy and double standards of unionism and the British government – they quite rightly referenced the South African weapons and the role of the British in assisting the loyalists.
“On January 28 of 1993, the British government acknowledged their role in procuring a weapons shipment from South Africa, they stated to the BBC that they had ‘lost track’ of the ship en route to Ireland from Pretoria. This was their excuse once the operation was exposed.
“It is our understanding that a member of the British cabinet at the time sanctioned Brian Nelson and the Force Research Unit’s role in procuring the weapons.
“There are obvious contradictions here, the Libyans aren’t the only people responsible. We must remember that British agents used Libyan weaponry to kill civilians here, which is much more reprehensible.
“If unionists are sincere about finding out who was responsible, they should look in their own back yard, the fact that they don’t is hypocritical.”
While the Libya issue trundles on, Relatives for Justice are preparing to take legal action regarding the arming of loyalists by the British.
“We have spent the past few years building a comprehensive case around the arming of loyalists by British military intelligence,” said Mark. “To date, those weapons have killed approximately 300 people across the community.
“From our perspective, it is clearly evident that culpability of these 300 killings rests firmly at the door of Downing Street.
“It is our intention to pursue these matters through the courts and to hold those responsible accountable.
“This will be a similar civil litigation to that undertaken by the Omagh families though in this instance the respondents will be the British government, its political and military establishment.”
While the looming legal battle and the Libya issue are of importance, Mark says people should not take their eye off the ball.
“In recent weeks, families affected through collusion and state violence here have rightly raised these issues and RFJ are endeavouring, along with a team of lawyers both here and in London, to address all of these matters.
“However, our focus and that of the families, while recognizing the financial hardship families have faced through bereavement and injury, centres around truth and accountability. These are the primary areas of concern.
The DUP are of the understanding that any financial package by Libya would be allocated using the current definition of a victim hence their efforts to change this.
“I would appeal to people not to be distracted by the DUP’s energetic approach regarding the definition of a victim, both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have made it crystal clear that this is not matter for change or negotiation.’
“Families should remain focused and committed to the truth regarding collusion and state violence.”
For more information, contact Relatives for Justice on 90 220100.