Friday, 15 January 2016

Compensation for IRA Semtex victims never raised in Lockerbie negotiations

[What follows is taken from a report headlined Tony Blair declines to appear before inquiry into Libya-backed IRA terrorism published on The Guardian website this afternoon:]

Tony Blair has declined to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into IRA terrorism sponsored by Libya.

The former prime minister has written to the chairman of the Northern Ireland affairs committee to refuse his invitation to give oral evidence, saying he has already supplied written material that presents all the information he can offer.

The inquiry is examining the role of the UK government in seeking compensation for victims of IRA attacks that were made possible by the provision of Semtex and other weapons by the former Gaddafi regime. (...)

[A] spokeswoman for Blair’s office said he did not believe that appearing before the committee simply to repeat what he had already said would do anything to further the cause of the victims and their families.

In his written evidence, Blair denied he at any time tried to halt compensation for IRA victims at a time when the US was negotiating on behalf of victims of the Lockerbie bombing.

He defended his need to deepen relations with the Gaddafi regime in 2004, as he claimed the country had begun to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programme and cooperate with the UK on fighting terrorism.

“From the outset, the issue of Lockerbie was treated as a separate issue by both the British and the American governments,” he wrote. “Libya had made a number of admissions regarding the extent of their links with IRA terrorism from 1992 to 1995. The issue of compensation for the victims of IRA terrorism made possible by the provision of material by the Gaddafi regime was not an issue raised with me, as far as I am aware. (...)

He said he understood why the victims of IRA terrorism should have wanted their claims raised at the same time as the settlement of the Lockerbie compensation in 2008, but “for the Americans this was never going to be made part of this settlement since they were focused on US citizens affected by Lockerbie and the Berlin discotheque bombing.”

He added: “I believe in any event they were precluded legally from such an action. I never tried to get the Americans to exclude the claims of IRA victims. I did not raise this issue with President Bush.” (...)

He stressed he was not prime minister in 2008 and therefore was not in a position to have raised the issue of IRA victims when Lockerbie compensation was agreed by the US at that time.

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