Sale of LÉ Aisling reflected ‘prevailing’ market value

Former Naval Service vessel sold for €110,000 in March is back on sale for up to $750,000

Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe has said he is satisfied that the sale price for the former Naval Service patrol ship LÉ Aisling reflected the "prevailing" market value.

Mr Kehoe also said he believed the €110,000 sale to a Dutch ship broker was “transparent”and the ship’s disposal “reduced accruing costs to the exchequer”.

Mr Kehoe was responding to criticism of the deal by his own Fine Gael colleagues including Alan Farrell TD, who said the sale would be raised at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) later this week. Galway city's deputy mayor Cllr Pearce Flannery said the ship had been "sold for the price of a secondhand car".

The new owner, Dutch ship broker Dick van der Kamp, is said to be seeking $750,000 (€676,000) for the ship, more than six times what he paid. No price is currently quoted on Mr van der Kamp’s website and he was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.


Mr Kehoe said there was no assurances the ship would sell for the “speculative” figure of $750,000 or “indeed if it will sell at all”.

Two bidders

Mr van der Kamp was one of two active bidders at the ship's auction on behalf of the State by Cork auctioneer Dominic Daly in late March, and a senior official from the Department of Defence was present and consulted before the final bid of €110,000 was accepted.

An Irish buyer had opened bidding at €100,000 for the ship, and Mr van der Kamp’s second bid was accepted after the pause for consultation. No reserve had been set by the Government.

The ship was involved in some of the most dramatic episodes in the Naval Service's history during its 36 years at sea, including the apprehension of the Marita Ann carrying guns for the IRA in 1984, and recovery of 38 bodies from the Air India aircraft which blew up off the Irish coast on June 23rd, 1985, with the loss of all 329 on board.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil on Tuesday that the retention of the vessel since its decommission in June 2016, until April 2017, cost about €370,000 for the assignment of a skeleton crew and about €10,000 on tug hire costs.

Responding to a question from Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers, Mr Kenny said he was also advised that the retention of the ship at the Naval Service base at Haulbowline, Co Cork, after its decommissioning had created considerable pressure on resources, including berthage space.

He said while crew members were posted to the LÉ Aisling they could not be deployed to other operations, "where they were needed".

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times