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Gadaffi asked for training despite IRA guns

MUAMMAR Gadaffi's Libya had the gall to make approaches to see if the Irish Air Corps would train their pilots -- while it was busily supplying tons of weaponry to the IRA.

Department of Foreign Affairs files show that the cultural attache of the Libyan Embassy in London raised the possibility with former Fianna Fail TD Sean Sherwin.

This was just six years after Mr Gadaffi's regime had openly sympathised with the IRA and supplied five tons of weapons seized off the Irish coast on the gun-running ship Claudia by the Naval Service.

Despite that seizure, weapons were reaching the IRA including RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades used against British armoured vehicles, barracks and police stations in the North. And in the early 1980s the Libyans sent more weaponry including Semtex explosive and over 1,000 Kalashnikov rifles to the IRA.

But their 1979 approach to train Libyan pilots in Ireland was ruled out by the Air Corps.

A file pointed out that the Air Corps had stated it would not be possible to train pilots from foreign countries in the near future.

Meanwhile, moves by Aer Lingus to train Egyptian air force pilots in instrument calibration let to a flurry of letters between government departments over the possible political implications of the project.

In a letter to the Minister for Transport and Tourism Padraig Faulkner in January 1978, Foreign Affairs Minister Michael O'Kennedy said he had recently learned that the airline had taken up a request made to them through Rolls Royce and Hawker Siddeley Aviation to become involved in the training project.

"While there are clearly some political implications involved in this project I feel on consideration that I should not raise any objection to it from a political viewpoint."

This was partly because of general developments in the Middle East and also because the project would also be of use to civil aviation in Egypt and would therefore not be an exclusively military project.

Problems

But he wrote that similar contracts that Aer Lingus might be considering could raise political problems and that it would be well in cases which were likely to be sensitive that his department might be consulted in advance.

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Mr Faulkner later replied that he fully appreciated Mr O'Kennedy's concern and was requesting the airline to give him prior notification of any such contracts being negotiated where there was any airforce or military involvement or which for any reason were politically sensitive.

However, Aer Lingus chief executive David Kennedy said there could be some difficulties for the company in agreeing to notify the department in advance of all contracts which might have some military involvement.


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