Storm over PSNI-Libya link-up
Published 19/09/2009 | 10:32
The DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr is at the centre of a political storm for approving the deployment of two PSNI officers to Tripoli to train Libyan police.
The Policing Board yesterday confirmed that it gave the green light and that Board member Mr Paisley Jnr was involved in the process.
Mr Paisley was chairman of the board's Human Resources Committee when the request came in last December.
A board spokesman said because it was not due to meet again until February this year, procedure was followed and the secondment to Libya approved by Mr Paisley and the Board's then chairman Sir Desmond Rea. It was then rubber-stamped by Secretary of State Shaun Woodward.
The deployment was arranged in connection with the UK’s National Policing Improvement Agency.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds yesterday said the training link-up was “totally inappropriate and offensive given the very recent history of what the Libyans have done in terms of the annals of terrorism in Northern Ireland”. Mr Dodds is part of a cross-party delegation of MPs travelling to Libya in October to press Colonel Gaddafi's regime for compensation for IRA victims.
He said those who made the secondment decision were “living in a different world and a different planet” if they thought it the right way to proceed.
However, Mr Paisley Jnr later said he did not believe Mr Dodds had been provided with all the facts surrounding the case when he made these comments.
In a DUP-issued statement defending the approval, the North Antrim MLA said: “If the deployment had been proposed on the simple basis of the facts which are presently in the public arena then a decision to reject PSNI involvement would have been easy.
“Looking solely at a black and white picture of the situation in Libya and its relationship to Northern Ireland, then the obvious course of action would have been to oppose any personnel deployment to that country.
“However, I was made aware of much wider and more detailed issues which, if others were aware of them, I believe would lead them to reach a very different conclusion.
“I am not permitted, nor would I ever breach the trust and confidence of that office in order to counter what, for reasons of confidentiality, can only be part of the story,” he added.
Mr Paisley Jnr also told the BBC last night: “In an adult world you don't have to be a genius to work out why it would be useful to have a senior officer, who has got intelligence skills, in Libya and who examines that country and who looks at the facts that surround that country and to bring that information back to us.”
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister called on Mr Paisley Jnr to resign from the Policing Board.
“This was an act showing utter disregard to the history and deep sensitivities felt over Libya,” he said.
UUP Policing Board member Basil McCrea said: “Certainly recent DUP grand-standing on victims’ issues smacks of hypocrisy in light of this revelation.”
Gaddafi’s Libyan regime provided significant shipments of guns and explosives to the IRA, which were used to kill police officers.
In 1987 a boat called the Eksund was intercepted while conveying a massive consignment from Libya. The haul included 1,000 AK-47 machine guns, a million rounds of ammunition, more than 50 ground-to-air missiles and two tonnes of the powerful Czech-made explosive Semtex.