Lord Empey: Libya fought a proxy war against the UK via the IRA, yet the victims have been failed once again

The remains of the Austin 1100 used in the IRA car bomb attack outside Harrods Store, in London in December 1983. The terrorist attack, using Libyan semtex, left three police officers and three members of the public dead. Photo: PA/PA Wire
The remains of the Austin 1100 used in the IRA car bomb attack outside Harrods Store, in London in December 1983. The terrorist attack, using Libyan semtex, left three police officers and three members of the public dead. Photo: PA/PA Wire

The government’s rejection of a fund to provide compensation for victims of Libyan sponsored IRA violence is sadly a continuation of the aloof and indifferent approach adopted by successive governments.

The suspicion remains that as prime minister, Tony Blair did a deal with Gaddafi.

I began writing to the UK government about Gaddafi and Libya in 2002 and in all those years I have never heard a coherent explanation for the failure of Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) to get compensation for UK citizens for all the damage that Gaddafi had inflicted on us, as a result of supplying the IRA with weapons, money and training for over 20 years.

The repeated failure of successive UK governments is all the more galling for victims given that the governments of the USA, Germany and France all managed to secure compensation for their citizens who had suffered.

Bearing in mind that Gaddafi waged a proxy war against the UK for decades, it is simply unbelievable that the UK has not achieved a similar outcome.

The complacent attitude of successive governments prompted me to introduce 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) on 5th July 2017 and it will have its second reading on 27th October.

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 for them. 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 £9.5 billions 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 need to make the case that the UK was specifically targeted by the Gaddafi regime. Legal niceties should not be allowed to frustrate justice.

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 an Ulster Unionist peer