Soviets inquired about getting navy ships repaired in Ireland

Former ambassador to Moscow had ‘the strongest reservations’ about the proposal

State files have been released under the 30-year rule at the National Archives. Photograph: Frank Miller

State files have been released under the 30-year rule at the National Archives. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

In the Spring of 1987, the Russian government asked Arklow Engineering whether the company could do repair work at the Co Wicklow company’s shipyard.

The Soviets apparently had in mind repairs to “auxiliary vessels of the merchant marine which serve as supply vessels to the Soviet Navy”, according to a note of a phone conversation between a caller from the company and an official at the embassy in Moscow.

In Dublin, the request was assessed by Padraig Murphy, a former ambassador in Moscow, who took issue with his successor, Tadhg O’Sullivan, who said, according to Murphy, that Ireland had been willing in the past to consider refitting US naval vessels on a regular basis, and that navy ships of other foreign powers (“which?” snapped Murphy’s sceptical memo) had been repaired and serviced in the past in Ireland.

“I have the strongest reservations about sanctioning repairs in an Irish dockyard of vessels which, it is underlined to us, are ‘support vessels to the Soviet Navy’,” wrote Murphy, adding: “Please investigate our records for confirmation of Ambassador O’Sullivan’s recollections.”

By April 7th, Murphy had his answer, according to a note on that date, “we have never in fact engaged in refitting of US naval vessels” nor of any other powers.

Recommending against on the grounds of precedent, neutrality and his “best guess” that the entire proposal was a Soviet attempt “designed to establish our attitude”.