Aer Lingus secretly trained Egyptian Air Force

AER LINGUS was advised to keep secret its training of the Egyptian Air Force in 1978.

Confidential papers show top Government officials were nervous about giving the North African country aviation expertise during a critical stage of the Middle East conflict.

Egypt was in negotiations with Israel at the time, but the warring neighbours were still more than a year away from signing a peace treaty.

Files released into the National Archives in Dublin show Aer Lingus was asked by aircraft manufacturers Rolls Royce and Hawker-Siddley to train dozens of Egyptian Air Force personnel. Under the deal, it would also help set up a “standards laboratory” outside Cairo for both civil and military uses.

When the Government learned of the plan, it asked for details from Aer Lingus.

In a security assessment, a top Government official said his first reaction was for the national airliner not to get involved because Egypt remained one of the main parties to the Middle East conflict.

But he added: “On reflection, however, though still nervous about it and about possible publicity, I am inclined to think that we should not recommend to the minister that he should seek to block it.”

The Government’s thinking was that Egypt was not in direct confrontation with Israel at the time, but it was worried the situation could change.

It was also argued that because Egypt was turning away from the former Soviet Union – to which it was formerly aligned during the Cold War – there was a responsibility on Ireland, as part of the West, not to rebuff it.

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