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Tony Blair denies trying to stop victims getting Libya IRA aid compensation

Published 06/01/2016

Former prime minister Tony Blair and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi pictured together in 2007
Former prime minister Tony Blair and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi pictured together in 2007

Tony Blair has strongly denied trying to stop victims of IRA bombings using Libyan weapons from receiving compensation.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi gave arms and Semtex explosives to the republican group during the Troubles. Semtex from Libya became the IRA's most devastating threat during the Troubles and caused the loss of many lives.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs is considering how UK victims of the late Libyan leader's aid can be compensated. It has invited Mr Blair to give oral evidence. The former prime minister wrote to the committee last month.

Mr Blair wrote: "The attempt to implicate me in deliberately trying to stop IRA victims receiving compensation is utterly without foundation and wrong.

"I appreciate the opportunity you have provided me to set the record straight."

The committee is exploring options for compensating the bereaved like using the frozen assets of the Gaddafi family.

Links between the IRA and Libya date back to 1972 when Gaddafi praised the group.

He later provided the IRA with the weaponry to wage an armed conflict which lasted 30 years and claimed many lives.

The dictator was ousted from power in 2011 and later killed during an assault on his birthplace.

Mr Blair said Libya admitted the extent of its IRA links, 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.

"And of course a statutory compensation scheme for victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland was already in existence, having been set up by a previous government.

"The needs of victims were therefore being addressed through the existing structures and mechanisms."

He said he understood why victims of IRA terrorism would have wanted their claims raised at the same time as the 2008 compensation settlement of the Lockerbie passenger jet bombing.

Mr Blair said for the Americans this was never going to be made part of the settlement since they were focused on their own citizens affected by Lockerbie and a Berlin discotheque bombing and 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 (George W) Bush.

"The email from former Ambassador Vincent Fean to my office evidences no such thing.

"It was simply a reflection of government policy at the time."

He said he favoured the US having good relations with Libya because it assisted in the fight against terrorism.

Mr Blair added he did not raise the issue of IRA victims in any meeting with Mr Bush in 2008 nor any detail about Lockerbie compensation - he was not in government at the time.

The former prime minister also recorded his sympathy for the IRA's victims.

"It was to ensure that there were not further such victims that I spent more time than any Prime Minister, before me or since, on Northern Ireland and the peace process there."

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