PM to meet Dodds on Libya cash for IRA victims... but peer dashes hopes
Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted he remains committed to securing compensation for UK victims of arms supplied by Libya to the IRA – although a senior member of his own party thinks there's little chance of the money emerging.
Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi told peers on Tuesday that Libya was going through an "incredibly difficult" period, adding there is "very little chance" at the moment of obtaining the compensation.
But speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron yesterday tried to put on a brave face, telling the Commons he wanted to make progress on the issue despite Libya facing "huge challenges".
Replying to the DUP's Nigel Dodds, the PM said: "The Libyan authorities are in no doubt of the importance that we attach to engaging properly with UK victims and seeking redress.
"I raised it most recently with the Libyan prime minister last September.
"Of course his country faces huge challenges, which makes it difficult to make progress on this issue, but I am committed to doing that and I'm very happy to meet with you."
North Belfast MP Mr Dodds had told Mr Cameron: "You, and indeed the whole House, will be well aware of the contribution to the immense suffering of thousands of innocent victims across the United Kingdom made by the Gaddafi regime's state sponsorship of IRA terrorism, and the supply of arms and Semtex over many years to Republican groups.
"Do you agree with what you previously said that the issue of compensation from Libya remains a priority for this Government?"
Speaking afterwards, Mr Dodds said he was "very pleased" with the PM's pledge to meet him.
But the sense of optimism over progress stood in stark contrast to the message from Baroness Warsi in the Lords one day before as Ulster Unionist former leader Lord Empey stepped up pressure on ministers to secure compensation payments.
Noting the mixed messages from the Tories, Lord Empey said the Prime Minister had promised to make the compensation issue an important priority while Lady Warsi had said in January that the Government wasn't involved in any negotiations with the Libyan government to secure payments.
Lady Warsi told peers: "There is very little chance at the moment of securing a Libyan payment for compensation."
"The previous Gaddafi regime in Libya was a major supporter of terrorism within the UK and their supply of arms and Semtex in particular contributed to the immense suffering of victims right across the UK. Progress had been made with the new authorities in Tripoli following the fall of the Gaddafi regime."