Northern Ireland

Tony Blair denies blocking Libya compensation for IRA victims

Tony Blair
Image caption Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has invited Tony Blair to appear in person before the committee to answer further questions about the Libyan compensation issue

Tony Blair has denied trying to prevent IRA victims getting any financial compensation from Libya.

The former prime minister's comments came in written evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

The committee is examining the role of the government in seeking compensation for victims of IRA attacks made possible by the provision of weapons by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Among the weapons he supplied was Semtex explosives.

In a letter sent to the Westminster committee in December, Mr Blair said the issue of compensation for IRA victims was never raised with him as far as he is aware.

The United States negotiated a significant financial package for victims of the Pan Am jet brought down over Lockerbie and those killed in a Berlin disco bombing blamed on Libyan agents.

Mr Blair said he understood "why victims of IRA terrorism should have wanted their claims raised at the same time as the settlement of the Lockerbie compensation in 2008".

However, he said that "for the Americans this was never going to be part of any settlement since they were focussed on US citizens affected by Lockerbie and the Berlin discotheque bombing".

Mr Blair said he "never tried to get the Americans to exclude the claims of IRA victims" and he "did not raise the issue with President Bush".

He pointed out that when the compensation was under discussion in 2008 he was no longer in government.

The former prime minister said "any attempt to implicate me in deliberately trying to stop IRA victims receiving compensation is utterly without foundation and wrong".

Invitation

The chair of the NI Affairs Committee, Laurence Robertson, has invited Mr Blair to appear in person before the committee to answer further questions about the Libyan compensation issue.

Unionist members of the committee have urged him to accept the invitation.

The DUP's Gavin Robinson said: "As a result of Libyan sponsored terrorism against US citizens, Gaddafi's administration agreed in 2008 to pay $1.5bn [£1.03bn] to compensate families affected. For IRA victims in the United Kingdom, however, it would appear that our government made no effort whatsoever to pursue compensation.

"An invitation has been issued for Tony Blair to give oral evidence to the committee. The seriousness of the issue, and the impact on victims are such that I would hope he will take the opportunity to answer questions in more detail."

Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan added: "An acceptance of this invitation would mean a great deal to all involved directly and indirectly with this inquiry and would hopefully contribute towards a conclusion that would see so many families receive the treatment they deserve.

"I want to see an end game leading to the government developing a comprehensive strategy to ensure that all victims of terrorism receive the full attention, care and support of their country."

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