Britain’s bribe to Gaddafi to quit IRA sponsorship…

THE unionist campaigners seeking the British Government’s help to get compensation from Libya for IRA victims may be surprised to know that once upon a time their own government offered the Libyan’s £14 million (about half a billion in today’s money) to stop supplying the IRA. And that also in the 1970s, the Libyans wanted compensation from the British for “death and injury caused by thousands of landmines left by the Eighth Army while fighting in North Africa during the Second World War”, as well as cancelled contracts for military equipment and missile systems.

The documents revealed by The Independent make a couple of things quite clear – that the UK Government was prepared to overlook many actions by old enemies in the name of trade; and that ‘justice’ for victims is of little concern to politicians with an eye on the bigger picture.

As the 1976 Foreign Office memo said:

A settlement could, of course, bring its own disadvantages: Colonel Qadhafi… could cause HMG embarrassment… by continuing to support terrorist acts throughout the world. But the French and the Italians manage to survive a closer relationship with Qadhafi without sacrifice of their interests, even if he occasionally causes them embarrassment. The trade pay-off is clearly worth the risk.

Yes, this memo was typed in the mid-70s, and not earlier this year. In between times, Gaddafi’s weapons would cause more than occasional “embarrassment” to HMG, as well as mayhem, death and destruction in Northern Ireland. Later, he lost either interest in or patience with the IRA. But that is all history now.

Back then, the question of Libya’s support for the IRA seems to have been a secondary issue for the British Ambassador, Donald Murray, who wrote that he might use it as a stalling issue if he didn’t receive “immediate telegraphic instructions” from London in time should he be summoned by the Libyans.

How illuminating.

Sadly for the Willie Frazers of today, I doubt if the Libyans will make any significant concessions to his campaign for compensation, because right now it isn’t in Libya’s interest to pay up – nor in the British Government’s to force the issue. Do unionists have any bargaining chips in an international poker game where they are bit players?

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  • The rate of exchange used in the media (and implicitly copied by Gonzo above) seems to be quite wrong.

    £14 million in 1975 is equivalent to £107 million now, not ‘half a billion’.

    The deal was still on the able in 1976, but thanks to the high inflation of that period the value in todays terms drops to £86 million – far less than ‘half a billion’.

    Work it out yourself, Gonzo:

  • Only Asking.

    It doesn’t matter what the money is worth at todays rate, it was a significant amount back then and today, its the mindset behind it that is illuminating, we may all have known it, but now we know for sure, that the govt sold out victims. Quelle surprise. The British government lost its chance to get compo for the victims as the Americans did, there is no hope of getting it now.

  • “Britain’s bribe to Gaddafi to quit IRA sponsorship…” and “Britain offered Gaddafi £14m to stop supporting the IRA” bear only a passing resemblance to the contents of the memo.

  • Glensman

    Make no mistake, the Brits do not want Gadaffi to pay compo. Where would it leave them as regards loyalist arms?

  • Brian MacAodh

    It wasn’t til the 80s were the serious hardware made its way from Libya to the Provos, if I recall correctly.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I guess this story shows that there was some hardware making it here long before the 80s.

  • Dave

    Morality was always secondary to pragmatism in matters of state. It just a shame that they have infected the public with that disease. This story is a couple of decades too late to shock anybody.