Northern Ireland

Libya assets tax 'should go to IRA Semtex victims'

Muammar Gaddafi Image copyright AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Muammar Gaddafi supplied weapons, including Semtex explosives, to the IRA during the Troubles

The government is facing fresh calls to use the millions of pounds collected in taxes from £12bn of frozen Libyan assets to compensate IRA victims.

It has emerged that £17m in tax has been collected over the past three years on some of the assets seized.

The figure - about £5m every year - was released by the government.

It followed questions from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster.

The new chair of the committee, Conservative MP Simon Hoare, said the government needs to ask itself whether "it is content to continue profiting from frozen Libyan assets while victims receive nothing".

The MP added "there is now a clear moral imperative for this money to be used to help victims who have suffered for far too long".

"The tried and tested methods of grappling with this issue of the last 15 years has amounted to nothing for victims, so we are calling for a fresh approach, imagination and compassion from the government to ensure victims are compensated urgently," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Libyan-supplied Semtex was used in many IRA attacks, such as the Harrods bombing of 1983

Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi supplied weapons, including Semtex explosives, to the IRA during the Troubles.

In previous reports, the NI Affairs Committee argued that the government should use any taxes collected on the frozen assets to set up a fund for IRA victims of Libyan-supplied Semtex.

Libya compensated US victims of terrorism, but UK victims were left out of the deal.

'Untenable policy position'

The government insists it is not its responsibility to secure compensation for victims of Libyan Semtex, and that victims should pursue cases with the Libyan authorities individually.

The NI Affairs Committee has said this is "an untenable policy position".

The government has appointed a special advisor to calculate how much compensation should be sought from the Libyan government.

But it has rejected calls from the NI Affairs Committee for that special advisor to lobby the Libyan government on behalf of IRA victims.

In its response to the NI Affairs committee, the government said it wants to see "a just settlement for all victims of Qadhafi sponsored IRA terrorism" and is confident "the appointment of a special representative will bring greater focus to our efforts".

However, it added: "Securing compensation for victims of attacks indirectly enabled by the Libyan government is inevitably more complex."

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