Northern Ireland

Blair declines invitation to appear before MPs on Libya

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

Tony Blair has declined an invitation to answer questions about why Colonel Muammar Gadaffi was never asked by the government to compensate victims of IRA attacks carried out with weapons supplied by Tripoli.

In December, the former prime minister wrote to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

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

The chair of the committee, Conservative MP Laurence Robertson, then invited Mr Blair to appear in person to answer further questions about the issue.

However on Friday, Mr Blair's office said he "does not believe that appearing before the committee, simply to repeat what he has already said, would do anything to further the cause of the victims and their families."

In his December letter, Mr Blair said the issue of compensation for IRA victims was never raised with him, as far as he is aware.

The DUP's Gavin Robinson accused Mr Blair of snubbing victims.

"There are other mechanisms which the committee can use to compel witnesses to appear and I believe that strong consideration must be given as to how we proceed," he said.

Pan Am

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, which was 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 focused 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 Labour leader said "any attempt to implicate me in deliberately trying to stop IRA victims receiving compensation is utterly without foundation and wrong".

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