Tory John Lund: Villiers has done zilch for Northern Ireland

NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

A Conservative Party member has launched a blistering attack on the “washed out” Secretary of State, another Government minister and the local Tory chairman.

John Lund, a veteran political activist, contacted the News Letter after reading Monday’s report about an apparent U-turn on seeking compensation from Libya for IRA victims.

Prior to the 2010 General Election, David Cameron and William Hague promised that ministers would personally lobby Libya for compensation. But now the Foreign Office has said that the Government “is not involved in any negotiations on securing compensation payments”.

Mr Lund, the colourful former managing director of the Glenanne Mill textiles business, said that was “a complete sell-out”.

He questioned the role of a Muslim minister, Baroness Warsi, in the issue: “I’ve employed a lot of Muslims and I’ve worked with a great deal of them in their own countries. But I do believe that they should respect sensitivities of what happened. It’s just wrong.”

Asked why Baroness Warsi’s faith would be a factor in such negotiations, he insisted “I have a lot of time for Warsi”, but said: “She of all should have the sensitivity of what this sends across to us – ‘Oh, don’t upset the Arabs’. Well, I’m very sorry, they’ve upset us, with the Eksund, with all the flaming Semtex, with Gaddafi training them [the IRA] in Libya; it’s high time the Libyans accepted some responsibility.”

He added: “She’s going to have to apologise. I know that politicians don’t know that word but ... I don’t think she’d ever have got this past Owen [Paterson] but I think that Theresa Villiers has been a total washout.

“She’s not taken any interest in the Northern Ireland Conservative Party, as far as I can see. Yes, she’s attended one meeting, but she hasn’t even attempted to prosecute the Conservative cause in NI.”

He added of Ms Villiers: “She’s done absolutely zilch.” And, rounding on the Northern Ireland Tories’ chairman, Irwin Armstrong, he said: “I have lost faith in Irwin Armstrong. I’m very disillusioned.”

Mr Lund, who has long been outspoken, left the UUP after being suspended in 2010 after a public attack on Tom Elliott. He subsequently joined the Tories and the Conservatives released a statement from Mr Lund and others in which they urged UUP members to defect.

Mr Lund said that he intended remaining a Tory but was concerned that its European election candidate, Mark Brotherston, was supportive of the European Union.

Party moves to discipline Lund

John Lund may be disciplined for his comments, the Conservatives last night said.

NI Conservatives’ co-chair Trevor Ringland said that Mr Lund was a grassroots member who holds no office in the party.

“His comments about Baroness Warsi and his references to her faith are completely unacceptable. They will be looked at closely in terms of disciplinary action.”

Mr Ringland said that the NI Conservatives back Ms Villiers “without any reservation” and she had offered “a great deal of support to the party here”. He said that the party supported IRA victims “pursuing compensation from those responsible” and said that Mark Brotherston was “a great candidate” who supports British membership of a reformed EU.

He said that Irwin Armstrong had worked “exceptionally hard to build the NI Conservatives”.