Tony Blair 'betrayed victims of IRA’
The families of victims of IRA terrorist attacks accuse Tony Blair of betrayal over secret deals with Sinn Fein and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Published 09/03/2014 | 15:20
RELATIVES of people murdered by the IRA have made a concerted attack on Tony Blair, accusing the former British prime minister of betraying them twice over.
Families have blamed Mr Blair for two secret deals – one of which led to British relatives missing out on millions of pounds in compensation payments and another that has allowed IRA suspects on the run to evade justice.
Aileen Quinton, whose mother Alberta died at the age of 72 in the Enniskillen bombing on Remembrance Sunday in 1987, said: “There are no depths of immorality, betrayal and treason that Tony Blair is not capable of. I would put nothing past Tony Blair.”
Charles Arbuthnot, whose sister Jane was a serving police officer who died in the Harrods bombing, said: “Tony Blair completely disregarded the families of the many British victims of IRA atrocities and instead followed his own personal agenda.”
Miss Quinton, 55, who worked for the Metropolitan Police for 30 years, was one of 150 victims and their relatives bringing a class action in the US courts against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his Libyan regime that had supplied the plastic explosive Semtex to the IRA. Semtex was used to detonate bombs at Enniskillen and Harrods, and in other atrocities.
The court action was halted in 2008 following a deal struck between Gaddafi and President George W Bush, aided by an intervention from Mr Blair. The deal meant that American victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism shared a billion pounds in compensation while British families received nothing. Gaddafi had asked Mr Blair to intervene.
The anger over Mr Blair’s apparent interference – disclosed last year by The Telegraph – has been compounded by the discovery that while in power Mr Blair’s government negotiated a deal that effectively gave an amnesty to IRA terrorists on the run.
Almost 200 so-called “comfort” letters were sent to alleged IRA terrorists following a secret deal between Mr Blair and Sinn Fein. It is understood that one recipient was Charles Caulfield, who has been implicated in the 1987 Poppy Day massacre at Enniskillen in which 11 people were killed and dozens injured. Mr Caulfield’s whereabouts is unknown.
He was thought to have gone to the US, but other reports suggest he is living in the Irish Republic. Mr Caulfield, now in his 50s, was named in the Commons as the mastermind of the Enniskillen bombing although he has never been charged.
Another recipient of a letter was Evelyn Glenholmes, a Sinn Fein activist, who had been on the run, was wanted for several murders and had been linked to the Harrods attack. She is understood to have received her “comfort” letter in 2002.
She returned to Belfast, where she sits on a terrorist victims’ forum, having been the victim of a gun attack in her teens. She did not respond to an inquiry by The Telegraph last week.
The existence of the letters became known when John Downey, charged with killing four soldiers in the Hyde Park bombing in London in 1982, was acquitted last month after it emerged he had received reassurance he was not a wanted man.
Miss Quinton said: “What has gone on is extremely murky.”
She continued: “When I discovered Blair’s involvement in this, I was just disgusted. He was involved in the deal that blocked compensation and he interfered in justice. And then you consider how much money he is making now that comes from his years in office when he was betraying us all.”
Matt Jury, a partner at McCue & Partners, which brought the class action and whose clients include Miss Quinton, said it was time for a full inquiry into Mr Blair and the Labour government’s behind-the-scenes negotiations with Libya and the IRA.
Mr Jury is considering suing Mr Blair for alleged interference in his case. While American victims of the Harrods bombing received compensation of as much as £10 million from the Libyans – after the deal between Mr Bush and Gaddafi – British victims have never received a penny.
Mr Jury said last week: “Not only have these victims learnt recently that the UK Government might have been instrumental in denying them just compensation from those who provided the Semtex to build the bombs, they have now been told it granted immunity to those men who used them.”
Mr Blair has refused to comment on the “comfort” letters. He has also denied any involvement in the deal that led to British victims of IRA terrorism being denied compensation in the US courts.
His spokesman has accused The Telegraph of “twisting the meaning” of an email sent by a former British ambassador to Libya which disclosed Mr Blair’s intervention in the case on Gaddafi’s behalf.
Alberta Quinton was wearing her service medals when she was murdered by the IRA on November 8 1987. She had been a front-line nurse during the Second World War and was attending the Remembrance Sunday parade in Enniskillen when a bomb exploded at the town’s cenotaph.
Her daughter, Aileen, was furious to learn of the “comfort” letter believed to have been sent to the chief suspect, and of Tony Blair’s alleged role in halting her court case against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
“Tony Blair has been far more interested in advancing the cases of Gaddafi, Sinn Fein and the IRA than their victims,” said Miss Quinton. “My mother wore the medals she had been awarded for service in the RAF during the war and she went to pray for the young airmen she had known that had been killed.”
She kept her mother’s medals and the poppy she was wearing when she died. Sadly they were destroyed in a suspected arson attack on the family home.
Jane Arbuthnot, a woman officer with the Metropolitan Police, was 22 when she was murdered in the Harrods bomb blast on December 17 1983. She was one of six people killed, three of them police officers.
Her mother, Sue Arbuthnot, was in a garden centre in nearby Fulham when the bomb went off. She heard the rumble but never dared to imagine her daughter might be killed.
“She was fun; she was a bubbly 22-year-old. She was enjoying being a policewoman. She was a beloved daughter and I think, most of the time, a beloved sister to her brothers and sister,” said Mrs Arbuthnot, now 84 and a widow.
The disclosure that political intervention had led to compensation for American victims of the Harrods attack – but not British ones – has appalled her.
“The whole thing is so grubby. It is so political, “ said Mrs Arbuthnot, who now lives in Ipswich. “Tony Blair wanted to make his mark as a peace envoy and we went down the drain because of that.”
Robert Mendick, Telegraph.co.uk