Ireland erroneously named as ‘15th most important arms exporter to Third World’

Officials wrote to Swedish peace research group after ‘very serious error’ in yearbook

The Department of Foreign Affairs was “deeply concerned” about being named as a major arms exporter. Photograph: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

The Department of Foreign Affairs was “deeply concerned” about being named as a major arms exporter. Photograph: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs was “deeply concerned” that a Swedish peace research organisation referred to Ireland as “the 15th most important arms exporter to the Third World”.

An urgent communication from the department to the Irish Embassy in Stockholm about the 1980 yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) is revealed in the embassy files for 1987.

It indicated that senior staff in the department had “raised with Sipri the statements in their yearbook indicating Ireland as the 15th most important arms exporter to the Third World”. Ireland was listed in the yearbook as having exported some $87 million worth of weapons from 1970 to 1979.

In view of the “unsatisfactory” reply to the Embassy by the institute, the deputy secretary of the department was sending on a letter that the Embassy was to sign and address to Frank Barnaby, director of Sipri.

‘Deeply concerned’

The department’s letter to Barnaby said that “clearly a very serious error has occurred” and that the authorities here were “ very deeply concerned”.

“Their concern is all the greater because of the high regard in which they hold the work of your institute and the generally authoritative nature of your yearbook,” the letter read.

“Ireland does not export, and has not exported any ‘major weapons’ to any country at any time. Nor indeed do we know of any weapons exports of any kind from Ireland to any country.”

It rejected there was any justification for including in the book a “small scale” transaction involving the sale of three old aircraft by Aer Lingus to a British firm and asked the institute to take “all necessary steps” to ensure the correction of its “gross errors”.