Reg Empey: why is this agony al­lowed to con­tinue?

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - 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

Gaddafi’s legacy of de­struc­tion Manch­ester bomb 1996 En­niskillen bomb 1987

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