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Monday 24 July 2017

Dictator sent arms to IRA and was supporter of Haughey

Fiach Kelly

COLONEL Muammar Gaddafi once championed the cause of Charles Haughey and Fianna Fail.

His relationship with Ireland was patchy during the four decades of his regime, reaching a low during the 1980s over his support for the IRA.

But Gaddafi's links with the Provisional IRA strained relationships, with Libya providing the Provos with about 1,000 AK47 rifles and six tonnes of semtex explosives between 1984 and 1987.

This was touched on yesterday by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said all of Gaddafi's victims, including "the victims of IRA terrorism", should be remembered.

Despite the connections, former Taoiseach Charles Haughey said in 1986 that he didn't think Libya was supplying the IRA with arms.

Mr Haughey also insisted he wasn't embarrassed by Gaddafi calling him a friend and expressing his hope that Haughey and Fianna Fail would win the 1987 General Election instead of Fine Gael.

Gaddafi also called on Irish youth to "fight to liberate" Northern Ireland, which led to diplomatic protests by Ireland.

Mr Haughey visited Tripoli in 1983 as Taoiseach and met Gaddafi, with the pair reaching agreement on live exports ,which led to Libya becoming the State's single biggest market for cattle. This peaked at €90m a year in the early 1990s.

Albert Reynolds had a relatively friendly relationship with Gaddafi too, and travelled to Libya to meet him.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern met Gaddafi on the fringes of an EU-Africa summit in 2000, and pressed him to re-open the export beef trade between Ireland and Libya. Libya had banned the import of beef from Ireland and other EU countries in 1996 after the BSE scare.

In more recent years, there were efforts to improve links in other areas of trade, and there was a mission to Tripoli last year -- led by Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher, who was then junior trade minister. Ireland is more dependent than any other state on Libyan oil, which accounts for almost 25pc of our consumption.

Many Libyans fled to Ireland, where they constitute one of the biggest Libyan ex-pat communities in the world.

Irish Independent

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