IRA victims seek compensation from Libya

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

MARCO WERMAN: Britain had had experience with terrorism even before the rise of Islamic extremists. Sectarian violence in Northern Ireland from the 1960's to the 90's left more than 3,000 dead, and tensions that persist. Just today, security officials in the province diffused a bomb in South Armagh. Also today, British officials met with lawyers of the families of victims of Irish Republican Army violence. Those families are seeking compensation from Libya. Manya Dickinson was 13 when her father was killed by the IRA in 1990. And Manya Dickinson, first of all, sorry for your loss. It's obviously tragic to loose a parent, but it must be worse in such circumstances. And as you've indicated in comments you've made in recent years, these wounds never heal, you just learn to live with them. Tell us exactly what did happen.

MANYA DICKINSON: My dad was going to work at 7:00 in the morning, and he had been receiving threats for a number of years, and always checked under his car. But this morning (the day before he had hurt his eye), and right in the building site, and obviously didn't check underneath his car; was half way down the drive, and it blew up, leaving him outside the car, and he died on his way to hospital.

WERMAN: And the reason he was targeted is that he was supplying building materials to the British Army.

DICKENSON: That's right. He supplied building materials to the police and the army, and that is why, and they killed him.

WERMAN: Now it is known that Libya supplied the bomb-making material, Semtex, to the IRA in the 1980's. Do you know if it was, indeed, used to kill your own father?

DICKENSON: Yes it was. It was, and tests were done on the car, and the remainder of the car, and it was tested as Semtex.

WERMAN: What do you exactly want from Libya as part of this suit?

DICKENSON: I think for them to admit that they have been supplying the IRA with arms and Semtex would be a major way forward for us over here, because there is absolutely no recognition what the IRA have done at all, and I think this would be a way forward.

WERMAN: How do you think that's actually going to help? How will this be a way forward?

DICKENSON: Well it's the victims over here, and of IRA terrorism�they're not recognized worldwide as having lost � We're not on level with other terrorist acts in the world, and it's about time that we were thought of as equals. I mean, the terror attacks that happened here over the years are just absolutely atrocious. And the way the government sits over here at the minute, we're just told to move forward, and Northern Ireland is moving forward; but we can't move forward until the past is dealt with.

WERMAN: I thought the British government did compensate victims of terror attacks. Have you never received anything from the British government?

DICKENSON: No, we haven't. No. There's an awful lot of families--never received anything. So, � No.

WERMAN: Now, the British government has just supported your case, and the shift by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to support the lawsuit was rather unexpected. I'm wondering if you are concerned that your case is being championed now due to political considerations--most notably, the pressure following the release of Abdul Basit al Magradi, the convicted Lockerby bomber, sending him back to Libya�and not the moral reasons you must have hoped for when you joined this lawsuit?

DICKENSON: Well that is true. I mean, Gordon Brown, I think, he has done a �U-turn,� given the fact that he thought he had to. And unfortunately, it's probably not like his moral feelings towards the victims of IRA terrorism, it's just because he's being forced to do it.

WERMAN: As you must know, Manya Dickinson, Britain and the U. S. have also sold weapons and explosives to rogue regimes and questionable causes. In fact, the American manufacturer, Armalite supplied a lot of rifles to Irish-Americans, who sent them over to Ireland. I'm wondering, if you do win this case, whether you think this could open up a whole new �floodgate� of cases to come through?

DICKENSON: Well, that's what we're hoping. The main point, really, is to try and stop the sale of weapons and ammunition between countries, because that is what's causing absolutely everything. The terrorist organizations are getting backup from all these countries, and we're hoping if we make a positive move with Libya that it will threaten other countries, and everyone will see how well we've done in pursuing this. But they will not be stopped, or at least, not supply as many.

WERMAN: So you see this as not just a cause for yourself and other victims of the IRA, you see it as a much wider kind of lawsuit?

DICKENSON: Oh definitely, yeah. Definitely. We wouldn't be doing this if it was just for ourselves; because something needs to be done, and we're hoping that if this case goes ahead and we're successful with it, it will change the mindset of different countries.

WERMAN: Now your organization, the organization that's heading up this lawsuit, is called Families Acting for Innocent Relatives. The acronym is FAIR. It's headed-up by a man named Willy Frazer, who has openly said he does not work for victims of Protestant violence, and has said that Protestant paramilitaries do not belong in prison. How worried are you that having someone so partisan in charge of this suit will damage the campaign?

DICKENSON: No, it won't damage the campaign. William Frazer is the only person I would trust to be with us. He's the only person who's ever offered any help to my family and myself, and his life is continually threatened to this day.

WERMAN: So with, now, the support from the British government, are you fairly confident that you might actually win this lawsuit?

DICKENSON: Well, all we can do is move forward, and when we're meeting with officials in a couple of weeks time in Tripoli, we'll know more then. But at the minute it's looking very positive, so we just have to wait until the meeting in Libya to see what happens from there.

WERMAN: Manya Dickinson, very nice talk to you. Thank you for your time.

DICKENSON: You're very welcome.

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