Libyan warlord paid €1.35m for ex-Irish Naval vessel sold by Ireland for €100,000

UAE firm breached UN arms embargo over decommissioned ship, Security Council told

The former Irish Naval Service patrol ship, the LÉ Aisling, was sold to one of the participants in the civil war in Libya last year in breach of a UN arms embargo, the UN Security Council has been told.

The embargo was breached by a company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), about a year after the decommissioned vessel was sold by the State to a Dutch shipping broker, according to a UN report.

The State sold the offshore patrol vessel for €110,000 to the Dutch company. The Dutch company sold it a year later, for $525,000 (€473,000), to the company in the UAE, which almost immediately sold it to a company in Libya for $1.5 million (€1.3 million).

The details of what happened to the former Irish naval vessel are set out in a report just filed by the Expert Panel on Libya to the UN Security Council.


A spokeswoman for the Department of Defence said it had no “trailing obligations” in relation to the vessel, and that the resale of the ship was a matter for its purchaser.

Weaponry removed

The ship was decommissioned with all of its weaponry, defensive equipment and specialist naval equipment removed before it was put up for public auction and bought by a Dutch shipbroker, following which it was towed from Haulbowline to Holland, she said.

According to the UN report, the ship is now called the Al Karama (Dignity), has been refitted with cannons such as the ones it had when it was owned by the Irish naval service, and belongs to forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a "warlord" who launched an assault on the Libyan capital, Tripoli earlier this year.

Haftar is receiving military support from the UAE and Egypt, while the UN-recognised government of national accord in Tripoli is receiving support from Turkey, all in contravention of the UN arms embargo.

The department spokeswoman said the LÉ Aisling was never deployed in the Mediterranean as part of the operations aimed at helping migrants fleeing Libya and other war-torn locations.

She said the rescue missions in the Mediterranean had been suspended earlier this year and there were currently no plans for the Irish naval service to resume deployment there. The department had not been contacted by the expert panel about the former Irish naval vessel, she said.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent