Jack Straw’s bottom loomed large [figuratively] at the House of Commons last week. Ten lines into his evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee he revealed that he had “suffered a small shard of glass in my behind” as the Old Bailey bomb exploded in 1973. In a reversal of the Black Knight’s assurance “tis but a scratch ” Straw made much of his experience at the hands of Gerry Kelly MLA and others. [see also answer to question 490]
Some interesting evidence emerged.
He said that the issue of compensation for Semtex attacks had not been raised with the Libyans. He went on to speculate as to what the Libyan reply would have been. They would have said “we have owned up to supplying Semtex but it was not we who planted it at the Old Bailey [that scratch again] or used it in different ways.”
He used the British lawyer’s remoteness of damage argument on behalf of an imaginary Libyan lawyer.
He said that as early as 1995 Libya had provided information to the UK about the material and financial support it had provided PIRA.
Therefore , twenty one years ago HMG was in possession of the quantities supplied and could calculate whether or not PIRA had really decommissioned. Further, no doubt the Libyans gave the names of the terrorists involved in the deals.
The real explanation for the failure of HMG to support victims of Libyan supplied Semtex is that, if asked the Libyans would have said “we supplied the Semtex, your MI6 knew that. They also knew who was picking it up and using it and many of them were British agents. So don’t blame us.” So over twenty years ago , the issue of compensation was binned, for the greater good of oil and the lesser good of the peace process.
The mildly scarred Straw’s mission was to come to the committee and waffle away the victims’ rights. Hinting that it was really all the fault of their political representatives.
A glimmer of hope was raised when he said that if it were up to him, he would try to implement any recommendation made by the committee. But then again he is retired , so he would say that.
The real flaw in his arguments is that if the Libyans are so opposed to paying compensation to the victims of Libyan Semtex, why did they pay compensation to the non British victims, several years ago?
It’s over a year since this enquiry started and the consistent message from the Establishment is that HMG will not practically help the victims.
It’s time that the NIAC got a report out.