The BBC has been re-examining the links between the Irish Republican Army – whose leader Gerry Adams came to Australia to campaign for a Yes vote in the 1999 referendum – and Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi is the Libyan dictator who seized power by overthrowing Libya’s constitutional monarchy and declaring a republic in 1969.
That benign monarchy remains relevant to the Libyan people’s struggle for freedom today.
According to Duncan S. Ferguson, in the London Daily Telegraph on 23rd February 2011, “the brave people of Benghazi have been flying the flag of the (United) Kingdom of Libya (rather than the all green republican flag) as the symbol of their revolution against tyranny.”
And that is precisely what constitutional monarchy is – the antithesis of tyranny. Libya once had it until Gaddafi destroyed it.
…the Irish Republican Army works for a Yes vote in Australia…
As for Adams’ 1999 campaign to persuade Australians to vote Yes in the referendum, we were extremely disappointed that the local republican movement refused to distance themselves from him.
This was not so much that it was inappropriate for a foreign public figure to campaign in a domestic matter, but because the Irish Republican Army had previously refused to hand over to the Dutch the murderers of two fine young Australians in Holland. They were just two of a swathe of murders the unit committed across Europe.
The IRA admitted the murders and apologised. This was contemptuously rejected by the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke because of the Irish Republican Army’s obvious insincerity. The murderers are still free. Channel 7 produced a report on this outrage in 2010, "Collateral Damage". This was shown in its Sunday Night programme and can be accesse dby scrolling down its programmes on its website.
So we wanted the Australian republican movement to join with us in not besmirching the memory of the young murdered Australians, but they would not. Like Bob Hawke did, they should have spurned Adams.
His support tainted the ARM’s campaign. This was not something we wanted. The No case lost no votes from Adams intervention. Actually we probably gained them.
…long connection between Gaddafi and republican terrorists…
Martin McGuinness told the the BBC's Political Editor Mark Devenport that he feels no shame about republicans' past links with Colonel Gaddafi.
In the report, The 38-year connection between Irish republicans and Gaddafi (23/2), Mark Devenport asks exactly what is the link between Colonel Gaddafi and Northern Ireland?
Recalling that in the 1960s the Provisional IRA was badly armed, relying on old weapons, some dating back to World War II, he says Gaddafi saw the IRA as a comrade-in-arms fighting British imperialism.
(British, Australia and New Zealand and Indian troops had liberated Libya during the Second World War. Libya, formerly an Italian colony , was then placed briefly under British administration until it gained its independence in 1951. The King, Idris as-Senussi, unlike most republican Arab leaders, strongly opposed the Nazis and their allies during the war.)
Mark Devenport continues:
Gaddafi was partly responsible for providing the IRA with more modern weaponry.
The first proven connection with Libya was discovered in 1973 when the Irish Navy boarded a ship called the Claudia, off the Irish coast. They found five tonnes of weaponry supplied by Libya.
Links between Gaddafi and the IRA re-emerged in 1986 after Gaddafi's adopted daughter was killed along with more than 100 other people by US bombing raids launched from UK bases.
The Libyan leader has said he resumed contact with the IRA in the aftermath of those air raids.
A year later, French authorities stopped a ship, the Eksund, which was on its way to Northern Ireland carrying around 1,000 AK-47 machine guns, more than 50 ground-to-air missiles and two tonnes of Semtex. It is believed that other shipments of arms reached Ireland before the Eskund was apprehended.
In 2003, the BBC's Mark Devenport spoke to an intelligence source who said there was no question that Libyan arms had greatly enhanced the IRA's deadliness.
Attacks carried out with Libyan Semtex included the Enniskillen ( Remembrance Day) bombing in 1987, the Ballygawley bus bombing in 1988 and about 250 other booby-trap bombings.
Gaddafi's involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie finally led to his being ostracised and sanctions being imposed by the United Nations.
….rapprochement and justice…
In 2003, spooked by the US response to the 11 September attacks and the invasion of Iraq, and encouraged by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Gaddafi sought rapprochement by admitting responsibility for Lockerbie and abandoning his quest to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The families of the 180 US victims of the Lockerbie bombing received $1.3bn (£1bn) in total as part of a deal between the US and Libya.
The UN Security Council voted to completely lift sanctions in 2003, but the DUP's Ian Paisley Jr argued against this because of the lack of compensation for IRA victims.As part of the negotiations to lift sanctions, Libyan officials provided information about millions of pounds and 120 tonnes of weaponry which they had given the IRA.
However, the UK government has never secured a compensation deal from Libya for victims of IRA attacks.During a meeting with Gaddafi in 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown declined to put any formal pressure on Libya for compensation.
Mr Brown told a victims' lawyer at the time that it was not "appropriate" to discuss the claims.In a letter to lawyer Jason McCue in September 2008, Mr Brown told him that Libya was now an "essential partner" in the fight against terrorism and it was in the UK's interest for that co-operation to continue.
Mr McCue has been lobbying the UK to raise the matter of compensation at the highest levels of the Libyan government.
…victims of republican army not compensated…
More than 100 UK IRA victims have been excluded from out-of-court deals agreed by Libya with three American victims of IRA atrocities.
An Nothern Ireland Assembly motion in 2009 which called for compensation from Libya for IRA victims was backed by all parties, except Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said at the time that he supported the right to seek compensation, but said the motion was "unfair and partisan".
In September 2009, the BBC learned that police officers from Northern Ireland were sent to Libya to help train its police. Police said a chief inspector/temporary superintendent had spent a number of days in Libya in November 2008 to assess training needs
Perhaps now the best that victims can hope for is that the Libyan people finally oust the man who supported the IRA's campaign of violence for so long.