Declassified documents show extent of Libyan support for Provisional IRA

Muammar GaddafiDOCUMENTS RELEASED LAST WEEK by the National Archives of Ireland show the extraordinary support given by the government of Libya to Irish republican separatists in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s. The previously classified documents were released last Tuesday by Ireland’s National Archives, which is the country’s official repository of state records. According to reports, the documents were released to the public in accordance with Ireland’s National Archives Act, which enables the declassification of certain state records 30 years after their production.

The documents contain details about the covert support given by the Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (pictured) to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). The PIRA was a separatist militant organization that operated in British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for over 30 years, beginning in 1969. According to reports, the information in the documents came directly from the Libyan government in 1992, as part of a broader effort by the Libyans to mend relations with London following the Lockerbie bombing of 1988.

The documents outline the amount of armaments that the Libyans gave to the PIRA in several covert shipments from 1973 until late 1987. Collectively, the shipments consisted of 1,450 Kalashnikov automatic rifles, 66 machine guns, 180 semi-automatic pistols, 26 rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, 10 surface-to-air missiles, 765 grenades, nearly 6,000kg of Semtex explosive, over a thousand detonators, nearly 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, as well as several flame-throwers. The secret arms shipments came to an end in October 1987, when French military intelligence was able to intercept large quantities of weapons and war materiel that had been hidden aboard the ship MV Eksund by its Irish crew.

But the Libyans continued to secretly fund the PIRA, according to the documents released last week. By 1992, when the information contained in the documents was provided to the British by the Libyan government, Tripoli had given the PIRA “over $12.6 million in cash, the equivalent of roughly $45 million in today’s money”. British intelligence quickly shared this information with the Irish government, which is how these documents ended up in the National Archives of Ireland. The documents also include a list of PIRA volunteers who traveled to Libya and were trained in guerrilla warfare and sabotage. However, the names appear to be fake, and were probably used by the PIRA members “to disguise their travel to Libya”, according to reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 January 2022 | Permalink

One Response to Declassified documents show extent of Libyan support for Provisional IRA

  1. I wrote about this in detail in my book, NOC – Non-Official Cover: British Secret Operations, published more than 10 years ago, in which I was an operative inside Libya in the early seventies.

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