Northern Ireland

Straw: IRA victims were not ignored during Gaddafi talks

Mr Straw giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
Image caption Mr Straw giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

Jack Straw has denied that IRA victims killed and injured by Libyan-supplied Semtex were ignored during negotiations with the Gaddafi regime.

The former foreign secretary said the issue of compensation for IRA victims was not raised with him prior to the discussions with the Libyans.

He added that had it been on the agenda it is unlikely it would have been resolved.

Mr Straw was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

The committee is examining the government's role in seeking compensation for IRA victims who suffered because of explosives supplied by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The former foreign secretary who was involved in a peace deal with Libya in 2003, said there was no suggestion the victims of IRA violence were at the back of the queue.

"The issue of compensation for victims of PIRA (Provisional IRA) terrorism was not raised with me, so far as I can recall and I know the Foreign Office can find no record suggesting it was raised," he said.

"When you are involved in negotiations of this kind to deal with a very serious and continuing danger that the Gaddafi regime had caused over many years, you have got to make a decision over what you are going to concentrate on.

If the issue of PIRA had been raised we would have taken it into account, it was not raised."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya for more than 40 years before being deposed and killed in 2011

'Lockerbie bombing'

"Even if we put it on the agenda we didn't believe it should get in the way of the agreement as had we refused an agreement on the WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) agenda with Libyans, it wouldn't have helped the victims of IRA bombings for a second," he said.

It simply would have meant that Libya would have continued to be dangerous," he added.

Members of the committee also asked Mr Straw to explain why the families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing received compensation but those who suffered at the hands of Libyan supplied explosives to the IRA did not.

"Libya under a United Nations Security resolution accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie attack and agreed to pay compensation," he said.

"There was no such UN Security Council which bonded Libya to pay compensation to the victims of its support for the IRA, that was the difference," he said.

Mr Straw also revealed that he too had suffered at the hands of the IRA.

He told the committee how he had been hit by flying glass when a car bomb exploded outside the Old Bailey in 1973.

He added that he later had to sign the release papers for some of those involved in the bombing as part of the Good Friday Agreement negotiations.

'More questions than answers'

The UUP MP for south Antrim, Danny Kinahan said Mr Straw's committee appearance will bring no comfort to victims:

"Jack Straw's evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has raised more questions than answers, and brings us no further in terms of assisting those UK victims of IRA attacks where Libyan Semtex and weapons were used," he said.

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