The British government secretly offered up £14 million to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in the 1970s to persuade him to end his country’s support to the IRA.
The British Independent reports that documents released to Britian’s National Archives reveal that then-prime minister Harold Wilson held negotiations with Libya in an attempt to halt the supply of guns and explosives to the Irish paramilitary group in exchange for what would be worth £500 million ($800 million) today.
The proposed deal was part of a package of compensation measures to placate Kadhafi and open up trade between Britain and the African state.
The Independent quoted a “personal message” from Wilson to the Libyan leader which they say made it clear that the British government was prepared to pay Libya to end material support for the IRA.
In 1975, Wilson wrote: "I do not want to anticipate the results of the forthcoming talks, which we shall enter into in a truly constructive spirit, but it might be helpful nevertheless to mention two questions of particular importance to us."
"The first of these concerns Northern Ireland.”
British-Libyan negotiations failed by the end of the 1970s, with Kadhafi demanding a payout of £51 million (£1.5 billion today).
The Libyan leader has since admitted being a major supplier of weapons to the IRA, but Britain's Foreign Office says it is unaware of any £14 million-pound offer to stop this.
Families of IRA victims recently called upon current British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to lobby Libya for compensation. The call came in response to the release of the terminally-ill Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi who was freed by Scottish authorities on compassionate grounds. The families say Libya should show them the same compassion.
The African state, however, has said they will fight these demands in court.
Suspicion over Britain’s dealings with oil-rich Libya has been growing since the release of Megrahi, with many accusing them of using the case of the Lockerbie bomber for political and economic gain.