Taoiseach briefed about forged Irish passports in US Iran-Contra scandal
Secret papers reveal that Ireland considered the Iran-Contra affair, including the use of forged Irish passports and CIA-chartered aircraft carrying munitions via Shannon Airport, as "minor, purely bilateral matters" with the US.
Confidential briefing notes for Taoiseach Charles Haughey in advance of his visit to Washington from March 16-18, 1987, revealed that Department of Foreign Affairs staff wanted to familiarise him with various issues relating to Irish-US relations, including the escalating Iran-Contra scandal in the US.
"The closeness of our relationship with the United States, which has come about mainly because of our interest in having US support regarding Northern Ireland, means that bilateral relations in general are normally very good," the briefing stressed.
"[But] there are several minor, purely bilateral matters, some sensitive and still unresolved, of which the Taoiseach and [Foreign Affairs] Minister [Brian Lenihan] should be aware."
The Department of Foreign Affairs singled out Ireland being drawn into aspects of the Iran-Contra row in the US. This revolved around attempts by the administration of then-US president Ronald Reagan to provide indirect aid to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua who were fighting the leftist Sandinista regime.
In a bizarre arrangement, US intelligence agencies arranged for a triangular exchange of materials involving the US, Iran and the Sandinistas. "It is suspected that forged Irish passports may have been used to facilitate travel to Tehran," the Irish note advised.
However, the Department of Foreign Affairs also raised the issue of a US flight refuelling at Shannon Airport, but not declaring a cargo that was now suspected to have included military equipment.
"The 'Phoenix' magazine has reported that aircraft of the Miami-based private airline Southern Air Transport [SAT], believed to be connected to the CIA, which landed at Shannon for refuelling in July and August 1986, travelled onwards to Tehran with four or five 25-ton cargoes of military equipment.
"It has been pointed out to the Americans that if their aircraft were carrying munitions of war, SAT were in breach of the Chicago Convention and of Irish legislation in not having sought prior permission of the Irish Government [for such material].
"[This is] a situation which was in neither country's interest."