It has been disclosed that the British Government have £9.5billion of Libyan money lying in a secure bank account. Yes billion. This was sequestered after the fall of the previous Libyan administration. The money is resting in an account somewhere in Britain and the government is minding it.
Who owns the money now? When Libya is going through such turmoil and its public services need urgent repair and restoration it seems incredible that their money can be held onto in London.
How did we here find out about this? Well there are some people who are eyeing the Libyans’ money up. Some of them are victims of the IRA’s use of Semtex and are trying to secure additional compensation through this fund. And they have friends in high places supporting them. The “NI Affairs” committee in Westminster have a full committee inquiry into it, summoning many, including former PM Blair to give evidence.
All of this raises questions.
How does one government get to hang onto the money of another country, no matter what turmoil they are going through?
And why are the NI Affairs Committee actively facilitating the calls for Libyan compensation by a section of victims? Particularly considering they entirely ignore calls for a comprehensive package of reparation measures for all of those who suffered injury and bereavement during our conflict.
And, if we are going to look at international players with some responsibility in our conflict why are South African archives not being sought in relation to the weapons that brought misery to our streets?
And, why is this conversation on compensation happening outside of negotiations on dealing with our past?
And, why are the British Government being facilitated to side step their obligations to provide proper reparations on an equal basis?
The truth is that this committee inquiry in Westminster is highlighting those actions of one actor to our conflict – the IRA – and throwing a blind and deaf one to any of the other actors and their responsibilities. And of course the whole exercise is being carried out in the name of bereaved citizens, who of course are entitled to reparation, but the emotional tug on this gives the one sided nature of it apparent legitimacy.
Except apparently emotional tugs and sensitivities are a one-way street. Remember this time seven years ago when Eames Bradley gave us the mechanisms for providing a measure of truth, justice and acknowledgment to everyone on an equal basis? And remember how the idea that a paltry sum of money given to every bereaved family on an equal basis meant that it crashed on the rocks of very nasty politicking? And remember how not one bit of compassion was exercised as families were condemned to almost another decade of unanswered questions?
It remains the case that 22 years after the ceasefires and despite international law and direction to the contrary, there are some processes which afford victims of republicans some measure of redress, and all other victims are left with issues entirely unaddressed. And that NI Affairs Committee is a significant player in that discrimination.