Belfast Telegraph

In 15 years I have never heard a coherent explanation for this failure to help families

By Lord Empey

I began writing to the UK Government about Gaddafi and Libya in 2002.

In all those years I have never heard a coherent explanation for the failure of HMG to get compensation for UK citizens for all the damage that Gaddafi had done to us as a result of supplying the IRA with weapons, money and training for over 20 years.

As a result of Lockerbie and other terrorist outrages, the Americans, Germans and French all secured compensation for their citizens who had suffered.

By stark contrast the UK - against whom Gadaffi waged a proxy war - has not even asked.

Why?

A question arises that remains unanswered to this day.

Did Tony Blair do a deal with Gaddafi?

During a hearing before the Northern Ireland Select Committee at Westminster, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw took a very bizarre line.

When asked about compensation, he said that, of course, victims had received compensation.

In some cases that was true - but it was from the British taxpayer.

This complacent attitude has underpinned the attitude of governments for years.

Because of this, I succeeded in getting a Private Member's Bill before Parliament last year, but because of the election it ran out of time.

I reintroduced it - the Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill - in July, and it will have its second reading on October 27.

The aim is to raise the profile of the Libyan connection to terrorism and to ensure that the victims can see that Parliament has not forgotten them and is still seeking a measure of justice.

There are representatives of all parties supporting it, but we await the Government's response.

I was disappointed that in the recent negotiations between the Conservative Party and the DUP this issue didn't figure.

It is simply staggering that Libya has £9.5bn of frozen assets in London alone. They have more in other countries as well. I want some of that to go towards helping the many who have suffered greatly as a result of Gaddafi's Semtex.

I know there is a UN and EU ban on moving these assets, but officials in the Treasury and Foreign Office have not even asked either the UN or EU to partially lift the ban for humanitarian reasons.

In all the talk of rights, the great and the good seem to be excessively reluctant to lift a finger to help people who suffered terribly as a result of terrorists armed by a brutal despot.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Report states that victims have been repeatedly let down by various administrations.

Many of the events took place over 30 years ago and time is running out for the victims.

Soothing words from the Government and officialdom are not enough.

We shall persevere to raise the profile of this issue and continue to seek justice for the individual victims and the UK as a whole because of the huge damage Libyan weapons have caused.

It is the very least the victims deserve.

Lord Empey is chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party and party leader from 2005 until 2010

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