Saturday 24 March 2018

1985 State Papers: Concern at Israeli flights in Shannon

The arrivals terminal at Shannon Airport. Photo: Bloomberg
The arrivals terminal at Shannon Airport. Photo: Bloomberg

Ralph Riegel and Chris Parkin

The Government was increasingly concerned that Israeli flights using Ireland for stopovers en route back from the US were carrying military material.

The revelation came as secret Government memos indicated Ireland was carefully reviewing all Israeli requests for stopovers at Shannon Airport.

However, stopovers from other countries, including Singapore, attracted less attention.

Israeli Air Force planes were routinely allowed fly empty transporter aircraft over Ireland to the US, where they loaded up with arms and ammunition.

But they were not allowed fly back over Irish airspace if munitions were being carried.

In March 1984, the Israeli Embassy in London was informed that because a flight planned for March 28 would be carrying "material de guerre" it would not be allowed.

However, permission was granted for the overflight on March 26, 1984. A request for another overflight on June 28 was rejected.

The aftermath of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Ireland's commitment to UN peacekeeping also dominated the domestic foreign policy agenda.

A document dated March 11, 1985, saw the Government warned about the consequences of a withdrawal from Lebanon, as demanded by the former minister Conor Cruise O'Brien.

The briefing, prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs, said: "It would be seen by the Lebanese and the international community as an abandonment of the Shiite community to the Israeli occupation.

"It is recommended that we avoid an immediate decision to withdraw, as called for by Dr O'Brien.

"Ireland occupies a central position... in the Unifil operation and our departure would leave a huge gap in the force."

Irish Independent

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