How a plan to sell launches to Iran was scuppered

State Papers: As Iran-Iraq war raged, Noonan floated idea for sale of boats to Iranian navy

 Minister for foreign affairs  Peter Barry:  said there was every possibility the launches could be used in the war effort. Photograph: Jack McManus

Minister for foreign affairs Peter Barry: said there was every possibility the launches could be used in the war effort. Photograph: Jack McManus

 

A proposal that the government should support the production of high-speed launches in Ireland for the Iranian navy in 1986 was given cautious encouragement by then minister for industry Michael Noonan.

But Peter Barry, then minister for foreign affairs, poured cold water on the plan.

Documents contained in the Department of Foreign Affairs file, now at the National Archives, say Copland Boats, from the Isle of Wight in the UK, had a £2 million contract to supply 16 high-speed launches to the Iranian navy for search-and-rescue missions.

At the time, the Iran-Iraq War was under way and British policy was against the export of defence equipment that would enhance the capability of either side to prolong the conflict. Consequently, a licence had not been granted for the export of the launches.

Irish licence

Iran

In a letter dated February 18th, Mr Noonan said because Ireland was not a member of Nato, its trading position in sensitive products to countries including Iran was “a delicate one requiring constant vigilance and care”. He also said while our “neutral status” suggested we should not contemplate supplying the vessels, the reality was “we have considerable trade with Iran and Iraq”.

“I am inclined to take the view that if we could get the project established here we should try to do so,” Mr Noonan said.

Mr Barry responded, on February 24th, that the matter had been considered from “a foreign policy perspective” and there was every possibility the launches could be used in the war effort.

“It would be undesirable to encourage this project,” he said.