Boris challenged over accuracy of leaked Libya letter

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnston has been challenged over the accuracy of his letter.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnston has been challenged over the accuracy of his letter.

Troubles victims and their supporters have been left furious by the contents of a leaked letter from Boris Johnson, which had been penned following his meeting with MPs who were pressing for compensation for victims of Libya-IRA terrorism.

Lord Empey, who had been among those at the meeting, said the letter does not accurately represent what had been discussed with Mr Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary.

In May, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster said successive governments had failed in their responsibilty to fight for compensation for UK victims of weaponry and explosives which were supplied to the IRA by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

It reprimanded the government, and said many victims who are in need of financial support due to their injuries, advancing age, and damaged earning ability.

It recommended the government set up a bridging fund for victims if a deal with Libya looks unlikely by the end of this year.

The government rejected the call, but a cross-party group of MPs met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on October 11 to press for support.

Sources indicate that the MPs were pleased with the meeting, but UUP peer Lord Empey, who was present, said that Mr Johnston’s follow-up letter to them gave a very different record to what was actually said.

Mr Johnston wrote that the delegation had agreed with him that taxpayers’ money should not be used to set up a bridging fund for victims, and that the campaign for compensation should instead set up a community fund instead.

In the letter, leaked to the News Letter, he had written to MPs: “We concluded that UK government discussions with the Libyans should focus on exploring the possibility of a fund to focus on community support, rehabilitation and reconciliation and not on monetary compensation for individual victims”.

Lord Empey told the News Letter: “This was not agreed by those present.”

He hopes to press the government into a Commons debate on the subject with an ongoing Private Members Bill, he added.

Former chairman of the committee, Laurence Robertson MP, told the News Letter that he too was present during the discussion.

“The letter seems to be very different to the meeting at various points,” he said.

“They [Libya] have to accept culpability and they have to pay.”

Mr Johnston also stated that the Government will not take the lead in fighting for the victims, saying “we do not formally espouse their claims”.

Mr Ihsan Bashir, whose brother was killed in the 1996 Canary Wharf bomb, said he was “disgusted” by the letter. “Is this how all victims of terror will be treated in the future?” he asked. Susanne Dodd, whose father was killed in the 1983 Harrods bomb, said he was “very disappointed” and asked how the government can say it supports victims.

“It would be far better if they just said ‘we don’t care’.”