Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 18 Jun 1986

Vol. 368 No. 2

Adjournment Debate. - Alleged Libyan Support for IRA.

Deputy Frank Cluskey has been given permission to raise on the Adjournment the question of renewed support by Libya for the IRA. He has 20 minutes.

I thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter in the House. I regard as very serious the report widely carried in this morning's newspapers and also on RTE that a delegation of European Parliamentarians from Germany stated that the second-in-command of the Libyan regime indicated to them that because of the US bombing of Libya and the co-operation of the United Kingdom in that operation they were considering resuming support for the Provisional IRA. In our circumstances we must take this statement by the German MEPs very seriously indeed. We are not talking about people who might possibly be toying around with the idea of entering into this field; we are talking about a regime which we know in the past supplied arms, et cetera, to the Provisional IRA. That type of support has led directly to the deaths of Irish men and women, irrespective of their religious or political persuasion. This House, not just the Government, must take the reports very seriously.

I should like to know what the Government have done since the reports became known to establish what precisely was said by the Libyan authorities and whether they clearly indicated their intention to resume support for the Provisional IRA. If the Government have already made inquiries, did they find the statements made by the German MEPs to be accurate? If so, has any message been expressed by the Irish Government to the Libyan authorities?

I had what I can only describe as the unpleasant experience of visiting Libya in the mid-seventies shortly after the arrest of the Claudia off the Irish coast when it was found to be loaded with the means of death and destruction among Irish men and women. It was proved that that consignment at least originated in Libya. I was a Parliamentary Secretary in the Coalition Government and I joined in a parliamentary delegation to visit Libya. I went with the express purpose of ensuring that the Libyan authorities were left in no doubt as to the attitude of the Irish Government and of all the parties in this House at that time in regard to support for the Provisional IRA or any other group or grouping intent on murdering Irish men and women to achieve their so-called political ends.

One of the most disturbing aspects of that visit was the activity of some of the businessmen from Ireland who were running around Libya. In my opinion they were there to enhance their own position, not that of Ireland. Because of the system that operates in that country they went there to obtain agencies and in order to do so they were quite prepared to make what they regarded as the appropriate noises to the Libyans so that their visit would accrue to their advantage. If it has accrued to their advantage there is no question that it has been very much to the detriment of this country and its citizens. I have no reason to believe that this activity is not continuing and it is one to which any Irish Government should give very close scrutiny.

If the Libyan authorities are seriously considering resuming their support for the murder gangs operating in this country, we have a responsibility to ensure that there is no ambiguity as to our attitude to any regime or group that would support their type of activity. Only the other night we saw on our television screens the body of a man whose hands had been tied behind his back before he was shot. One would not treat an animal the way they treated that man. His body was left for 12 hours because the security forces were afraid to approach his remains. That is just one example of what support from Libya can lead to for our fellow Irish men and women. I make no distinction as to what side of the Border they live, what party they support or what God or religion, if any, they subscribe to.

There are two choices but one of them is unacceptable to me. This type of activity by Libya can be met by trying to kill Libyans, which I would totally reject, or by the application of economic sanctions. I would have no hesitation in urging the Government to apply economic sanctions. Not only should we convey that to the Libyan authorities but we should urge our EC partners to apply economic sanctions. We tend to be somewhat selective about this. There does not seem to be much dissent in Ireland in regard to calling for economic sanctions against South Africa. I subscribe to that because I think it is the only possible alternative, the only possible chance of avoiding a blood bath in that sad country.

I note that this week in Paris the Taoiseach called for economic sanctions against South Africa but if we have a moral responsibility towards the people of South Africa, which I believe we have, then surely we have at least the same moral responsibility towards Irish men and women. However, if we were to apply economic sanctions against Libya certain sections of our business community would exert every conceivable pressure on political parties and politicians here. There would be the valid arguments that we would lose trade with the consequent loss of jobs. As far as I am concerned the choice is: are we prepared to make some economic sacrifice to save Irish lives.

When we talk about having two choices it is worth recording that it was a sad day for me when our Government refused to condemn the United States bombing of Libya when the matter was raised in the House. There were other ways of dealing with the support for terrorism emanating from Libya but the choice made was the hard one, strike Libya, kill some Libyans even though they are innocent people, rather than apply economic sanctions which would hurt the business communities in western countries. On that day Ireland lost a lot of its moral authority in international fora by not condemning, without reservation, that activity by the United States.

I accept that the introduction of economic sanctions would provoke a certain reaction from the business community here. Those same gentlemen would weep tears over the loss of jobs that would follow the introduction of sanctions. I accept there would be a loss of jobs but I find it difficult to accept that that would be the main consideration of those people particularly when one considers how readily some of those gentlemen can close down their factories when there is not an adequate profit to be made out of the contracts they have.

There is another side to this matter. The security forces here, in co-operation with security forces in other countries, have in recent months been very successful in intercepting arms from the United States and European countries destined for the IRA and other terrorist organisations. I regard that as a very welcome development. It would be a great tragedy if following that success we are to be faced with a resumption of support by way of arms or money to the provisional IRA from Libya. Those who look at the question of sanctions in purely economic terms must also consider that the activities of those murder gangs in this country, and on this island, are costing the Irish taxpayer in excess of £100 million per year. Even in economic terms there is a very good argument for the application of sanctions if it is established that this statement was made by the Libyan authorities.

I noticed in this evening's newspapers that many parties in the House voiced their serious concern about the statement alleged to have been made by a very senior member of the Libyan regime. However, I am concerned that the main Opposition party, as far as I know, have not voiced, as yet, any concern over this serious and dangerous development. I hope, particularly against the background of the relationship I understand the Leader of the main Opposition party has with the Libyan authorities, that he will realise the importance of a clear message going out on behalf of the Irish people from all parties represented in the House, in particular from the main Opposition party, to the Libyan authorities.

Will the Minister tell us the results of the Government's inquiries in regard to the statement? If it is established that the statement was made, and that there is an intention by the Libyan authorities to resume supplying these murder gangs, I hope there will be a clear and unequivocal condemnation by all parties in the House of that intention. I hope, there will be a unanimous decision by the House for the application by Ireland of sanctions against Libya and that we will actively engage ourselves within the EC, and other international fora, in calling for an extension of those economic sanctions. Serious though the application of sanctions would be, hurtful though they will be not only for the Libyans but for us, they are preferable to the taking of any human life and preferable to us sitting back and merrily continuing to trade with people who would supply the murderers of Irish men and women.

I thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to speak on this matter. I welcome this opportunity to express my concern at the reports of Libya renewing its support for the IRA. These reports originate from a press interview given by a European parliamentary delegation in Tripoli during a recent visit there when the delegation was received by Major-General Ahmed Jalloud. I have had the press sources checked and I am satisfied that they reflect accurately the substance of the press interview.

I want to set out clearly the Government's policy and to inform the Dáil of the action I have taken. Any foreign government that support the activities of the provisional IRA, morally or materially, are behaving in an unfriendly way. I have made this clear to the Libyan authorities in the past and I am doing so again.

I instructed our Ambassador in Rome today, who is accredited also to Libya, to make an immediate demarche to the Libyan People's Bureau at Rome and to follow this up by an urgent visit to Tripoli.

The Ambassador will express our grave concern about any support or renewal of support by Libya for the Provisional IRA; the IRA are the enemy of the Irish State and of the democratically elected institutions of this State; Libyan Government support, whether moral or material, for the provisional IRA is unacceptable to us. The Ambassador will describe the record of terror, suffering and death that is the mark of the IRA and will underline our total rejection of any attempt to promote political objectives by violence or the threat of violence in Ireland.

I have instructed the Ambassador to describe the horror with which patriotic and right minded citizens here regard the acts of the IRA and to give examples of these acts, naming most recently the coldblooded murder of Terence McKeever, an Armagh businessman carrying on his ordinary commercial affairs for the benefit of people North and South. I know that all Members of this House join with me in condemning this brutal killing by the IRA.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that an Irish Government have had to protest to the Libyan Government because of their statements or actions in support of the IRA. After the killing of Woman Police Constable Fletcher outside the Libyan People's Bureau in London on 17 April 1984, the Libyan Head of State, Colonel Gadaffi made a number of statements in media interviews about the IRA. For example, on 2 May 1984 he was quoted as referring to contacts with the IRA in the seventies and to resuming support. On that occasion our Ambassador on my instructions made a demarche expressing the Government's grave concern at such statements. Most recently, in January of this year, officials of my Department at a meeting with Libyan diplomats in Dublin again emphasised the Government's concern about Libyan-IRA connections. We were told on that occasion that Colonel Gadaffi did not support IRA activities.

I have now asked for firm assurances that the Libyan Government will not encourage the IRA in any way or have contact with them.

There is, of course, a wider international dimension to this whole question. As Deputies are aware, I have had opportunities on a number of occasions recently in this House to highlight our profound concern and that of our partners in the European Community about Libyan involvement in international terrorism.

In recent months within the Twelve we have engaged in an intensive and detailed round of discussions aimed at elaborating an agreed European strategy to confront the challenge of international terrorism and to provide protection against terrorist attack. We have sought, above all, as an immediate priority, to take action to dissuade Libya in particular from involvement in such terrorism. These concerns were in fact central to the meetings of the Twelve Foreign Ministers which I attended on 27 January, 14 April and 21 April this year when a number of measures directed against Libya were agreed.

The measures include a ban on the export of arms or other military equipment to Libya. The Twelve have agreed that they will do everything in their power to ensure that their nationals and industry do not seek any commercial advantage from measures taken by others against terrorist attack. They have also adopted measures directed against Libya in the field of diplomatic relations and in the area of stricter visa requirements and procedures. Furthermore, strengthened co-operation on the problem of the abuse of diplomatic immunity.

Deputies will be aware that, in accord with these agreed decisions, a number of partners already have taken action to reduce the size of Libyan missions in their countries. Ireland, of course, maintains diplomatic relations with Libya, as I have already said, on a non-residential basis; we have regarded this diplomatic channel as an important part of our effort to ensure that our concerns about terrorism are fully communicated to the Libyan authorities. We are communicating those concerns again now and we will continue to do so.

The Twelve have taken no decision on the imposition of trade sanctions against Libya. We and other partners at all times have made clear our reservations on such sanctions. However, Libya or any other country which supports international terrorism will be in no doubt that they cannot expect to have normal relations with the Twelve. I should also emphasise that the Twelve have sought to engage interested states, in the Middle East and elsewhere, in a dialogue about international terrorism with a view to mobilising international support for the eradication of this evil phenomenon.

It will be clear from the comments I have made the very great importance the Government attach to the continuation of a co-ordinated and agreed Twelve response to international terrorism so that the specific concerns of all the member states can find proper reflection in that agreed strategy. This, I believe, is the course which best ensures that action taken will be effective in discouraging support for terrorism.

The measures agreed in regard to Libya have been on the basis of the evidence so far available to the member states about Libyan involvement in acts of terrorism and have taken account of the specific concerns which individual member states have about such involvement. If new evidence of Libyan support for terrorism becomes available, the Twelve will decide in the light of any such evidence the further action they should take. If evidence becomes available of Libyan involvement in the particular problem of terrorism which we face in this island, Deputies may be assured that I will pursue our concerns directly with the Libyan Government and within the framework of the common Twelve approach I have outlined.

Finally, I would like to assure Deputies once again that I share their concerns about terrorism and the role of Libya in such terrorism. The Government have a record of vigorous action in combating terrorism. We are proud of that record and will continue to build on it in this country and internationally in co-operation with our partners in Europe.

The Dáil adjourned at 11.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 19 June 1986.