Jeffrey Donaldson will surely have a good deal to say about the Sunday Times latest claims, that Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell wrote to him as long ago as January, implying that Gordon Brown forestalled compensation for IRA bomb victims because of oil interests and Libya’s new found cooperation in the war against terror. That at any rate is the interpretation the Sunday Times puts on the letter but if it’s right, why hasn’t Donaldson spoken out long ago?. However, a letter from the Prime Minister himself to victims lawyer Jason Mc Cue appears to make the point more clearly. You might have thought that Gadaffis alleged willingness to compensate the victims might have been encouraged as an earnest of his new good intentions, wouldnt you? Theres a lot more to come out about this. No 10 is quoted as saying: “Trade considerations were not a factor in the governments decision not to enter into direct negotiations with Libya on this issue. The prime minister is sympathetic to the case put forward by the families of victims of IRA atrocities. So what were the reasons for not entering into negotiations if as the Libyans hint, they may have been willing to deal? Might it have been the upfront release of Megrahi by any chance? Extracts from the Sunday Times story below the fold. GORDON BROWN personally vetoed an attempt to force Colonel Muammar Gadaffi to compensate IRA bomb victims because it might have jeopardised British oil deals with Libya.
Documents passed to The Sunday Times reveal how the prime minister took a close interest in a campaign to secure payouts for the 2,500 families of those blown up by the Libyan-supplied Semtex explosive used by republican bombers.
A letter from Bill Rammell, then the Middle East minister, sent on November 6, 2008 to Jonathan Ganesh, who was injured in the 1996 Docklands bomb and now campaigns for IRA victims, states that oil contracts were a factor in the governments failure to act.
Rammell wrote: Libya is now a vital partner for the UK in guaranteeing a secure energy future for the UK and is also a key partner in the fight against terrorism. While I recognise that this will be of little comfort to you, it is vital for the UKs present and future security that this continues.
Rammell again alludes to oil deals in a letter dated January 13 this year to Jeffrey Donaldson, the prominent Democratic Unionist MP: Libyas relations with the United Kingdom have developed in recent years to a point where we liaise in a number of wide-ranging areas including energy and counterterrorism.
The letters also reveal that Brown was personally involved in the decision not to push Gadaffi on IRA compensation.. Brown said in a letter to Jason McCue, the victims lawyer, dated October 7, 2008: The UK government does not consider it appropriate to enter into a bilateral discussion with Libya on this matter.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London