Letters on naval ship civil war use not passed on

Letters on naval ship civil war use not passed on
LÉ Aisling

The Department of Foreign Affairs promised to carry out a review of its system for “transmission of urgent and sensitive material” after it twice failed to pass on letters from the UN about the use of a former Irish naval vessel in the Libyan Civil War.

The letters were supposed to have been forwarded to the Department of Defence to answer questions about how the LÉ Aisling had ended up in the hands of the self-styled Libyan National Army.

However, neither piece of correspondence was acted on by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the first due to an oversight and the second after getting lost in an internal email inbox.

The publication of the report about the LÉ Aisling came as a surprise to the Department of Defence, which had mistakenly believed there had never been any contact from the UN.

However, it subsequently emerged that the two letters had been sent after the UN report stated that they had never been responded to.

Internal emails reveal how a detailed letter was sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs on March 12 last year “asking for Department of Defence response to specific questions regarding the disposal of the ship”.

An official wrote: “I undertook to send the letter on to you at the time and failed to do so — my sincerest apologies for this. It is an oversight I can’t explain.”

The email explained that “press lines” surrounding the controversy would need to be amended to reflect the fact the Irish Government had in fact been contacted. It then emerged that a second letter had also been received around the same time.

“Unfortunately, this went into an external email box in PMUN [Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN] and was not transmitted onwards,” wrote an official.

Sincere apologies for the additional difficulties this is causing. ISP [International Security Policy] will review the systems we have for the transmission of urgent and sensitive material.

In response to queries from the media about the report, the Department of Defence had been saying it had “received no correspondence from the UN” about the LÉ Aisling.

Although that was strictly speaking true, an official wrote: “Could we correct the record here that D/Defence was only made aware of the UN correspondence last night?”

Another email explained: “Our press response was correct in that D/Defence did not receive any correspondence from the UN but … we have a priority parliamentary question on this where the corrected information will need to be provided.”

The LÉ Aisling had been sold by the Department of Defence in 2017 for €110,000 to a Dutch company. It was subsequently sold to a firm in the UAE for over €470,000 before again changing hands for €1.3m and ending up in Libya, in breach of a UN arms embargo.

According to the UN report, it was renamed Al Karama and under the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army. Before being sold, the Department of Defence had fully decommissioned it as a warship.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Defence said that their responses on queries about the LÉ Aisling had been correct.

She said: “[We were] … subsequently sent a request for information from the Department of Foreign Affairs … which it had received from the UN in relation to the matter and the Department of Defence provided the required information to that Department for it to respond to the UN, which it did.”

More on this topic

Irish Examiner View: End dangerous wishful thinking about national defenceIrish Examiner View: End dangerous wishful thinking about national defence

Three Irish soldiers suffer 'minor injuries' while on patrol with United Nations in MaliThree Irish soldiers suffer 'minor injuries' while on patrol with United Nations in Mali

State security 'at grave risk' due to lack of Defence Force resourcesState security 'at grave risk' due to lack of Defence Force resources

Sean O’Riordan: Country will be left paying the price if Defence Forces don’t get their duesSean O’Riordan: Country will be left paying the price if Defence Forces don’t get their dues


More in this Section

Coronavirus: HSE advises mass-goers not to shake hands to stop virus spreadCoronavirus: HSE advises mass-goers not to shake hands to stop virus spread

Work on €180m Limerick development to begin this yearWork on €180m Limerick development to begin this year

New hope for prospect of left minority GovernmentNew hope for prospect of left minority Government

Covid-19: Public transport users between Dublin-Belfast ‘need not be concerned’Covid-19: Public transport users between Dublin-Belfast ‘need not be concerned’


Lifestyle

Prepare to fall for leather, whatever the weather, says Annmarie O'Connor.Trend of the week: It's always leather weather

The starting point for Michael West’s new play, in this joint production by Corn Exchange and the Abbey, is an alternative, though highly familiar, 1970s Ireland. You know, elections every few weeks, bad suits, wide ties, and a seedy nexus of politics and property development.Theatre Review: The Fall of the Second Republic at Abbey Theatre, Dublin

The Cork-led band played a superb gig in Dublin, writes Ed Power.REVIEW: The Murder Capital, Vicar Street

Lack of physical activity also causing disturbance of children’s sleep patterns.Under-fives suffering lack of sleep from extended screen time, doctor says

More From The Irish Examiner