Author of report on Libyan-sponsored IRA bombings ‘disappointed’ by British government’s stance

British Labour Party says Ministers ‘failed to provide even the most basic answers to victims’ who have ‘been left in the dark’

The author of a report into victims of IRA attacks using Libyan arms has told MPs at Westminster that he cannot reveal its contents, recommendations or terms of reference.

William Shawcross said nobody in the British government had sought to speak to him about the 90-page report since he submitted it a year ago.

The British government said this week that it cannot use frozen Libyan assets to compensate the victims and that it would not establish a bespoke, taxpayer-funded scheme to do so. Mr Shawcross told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that he was “surprised and disappointed” by the government’s statement.

He said he had not spoken to any victims in Northern Ireland of IRA attacks using Semtex supplied by Col Muammar Gadafy’s regime in Libya. They included the 1987 Remembrance Sunday bombing in Enniskillen, which killed 12 people and injured 63, and the 1996 London Docklands bombing, which killed two people and injured more than 100.


“I am aware of course of the agony of people’s expectations in Northern Ireland. It was brought home to me throughout my six months working on this, that the raised expectations and disappointed expectations over this over years and years is a terrible thing in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“I had wished and hoped to speak to victims but because it was only a scoping exercise, I was strongly advised from people in Northern Ireland whom I respected, not to approach victims themselves directly...because that would add too much to people’s expectations that I was going to provide a complete answer.”

The United States, France and Germany secured millions of euros in compensation from Gadafy’s regime as it emerged from isolation from 2003. But Britain has never received compensation for Libyan-armed IRA attacks despite a long-running campaign by Northern Ireland politicians at Westminster.

The British government said this week that international law prohibited it from using £12 billion of frozen Libyan assets to compensate the victims and that there were “clear practical difficulties” in obtaining compensation from Libya’s current government. Gadafy was killed in October 2011.

Foreign office minister James Cleverly ruled out using public funds to compensate the victims and recouping the money from Libya later, suggesting that victims turn to existing injury compensation schemes instead.

The British Labour Party’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh said after Mr Shawcross’s testimony on Wednesday that the British government had serious questions to answer about its conduct.

“Not only have victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terror been left in the dark, but the author of a key report effectively silenced. The failure of Ministers to provide even the most basic answers to victims is an insult,” she said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times