President took gifts from Gaddafi as Libya armed IRA

President Eamon de Valera accepted gifts from Colonel Gaddafi the same year Libya began arming the IRA, official state papers reveal.

Documents released into the National Archives show the maverick Arab ruler sent Mr de Valera a riding whip, a saddle and bridle during a secret meeting with one of his ambassadors in 1972.

Later that year, IRA chief Joe Cahill met Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Tripoli to arrange a five-ton shipment of weapons into Ireland as The Troubles raged.

The cargo ship Claudia was intercepted by the Navy in March 1973 and Cahill was convicted for smuggling the arsenal of Libyan arms and explosives.

Files from the President’s office at the time show that a representative of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi asked to call at Mr de Valera’s official residence Áras an Uachtaráin during a St Patrick’s Day visit to Dublin.

Galal Daghely, Libyan ambassador in Bonn, west Germany, was officially in Ireland to meet with a foreign trade committee.

A memo, written in Irish, reveals that an official in the Department of Foreign Affairs warned that any meeting should not be part of the published agenda of the visit.

It was felt that Libya was seeking representation in Ireland and publicity from such a meeting would be used to help pave the way to a diplomatic presence.

The meeting was initially turned down but the ambassador contacted an Irish official at home on St Patrick’s Day to say he had a present for Mr de Valera and would be disappointed if he did not accept it.

Eventually, after giving assurances that he would not publicise the visit it was agreed that he could call to Aras an Uachtarain where he was met by the President.

Several days later, Mr de Valera wrote to Colonel Gaddafi to thank him for the gifts.

“Recently I had the pleasure of receiving his Excellency the Libyan Ambassador in Bonn, Mr Galal Daghely, who had expressed a wish to call on me during his visit to Dublin,” he wrote.

“On that occasion, he delivered to me the saddle, bridle and riding whip which your Excellency so kindly sent to me.

“For this gift, which richly reflects Arab skill and handicraft, I wish to convey to your Excellency my sincere thanks.

“In expressing my appreciation of your kindness, may I add my good wishes for your personal well-being.”

Official files from 1973 released several years ago revealed that the Irish government decided against lodging an official protest with Libya over the arms smuggling because it was afraid it would spur Colonel Gaddafi’s regime into providing more supplies.

It was also felt that it might lessen chances of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) attracting Libyan investment in Ireland.

Libya went on to become one of the major sources of IRA arms and finance for its violent campaign over the following three decades.

It is believed to have supplied shiploads of Semtex explosives, handguns, AK-47 assault rifles, heavy machine guns as well as RPG-7 rocket launchers.

In 1987, a huge arms shipment aboard the trawler Eksund which was tracked between Libya and Ireland was captured off the coast of France.

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