‘The trouble is that Gadafy is mad’: what Haughey told Major

Then-taoiseach and British PM discussed how to respond to the Lockerbie bombing

Taoiseach Charles Haughey privately described Libyan leader Col Muammar Gadafy as “mad” during a meeting with British prime minister John Major.

The meeting in Dublin in December 1991 discussed sanctions that would be taken against Libya for the Lockerbie bombing three years earlier. A transatlantic Pan Am flight was destroyed by a bomb on December 21st, 1988, as it flew over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 passengers and crew aboard.

At the meeting between the two leaders, Major said it was beyond doubt that Libya was responsible for the attack. He then asked Haughey: “The thing is, what do we do? Libya is a terrorist state.”

The taoiseach replied: “The trouble is that Gadafy is mad.”


Haughey also pledged that Ireland would support whatever action was recommended by the G7 group of nations even if it hurt the Irish economy.

“We have a major outlet to cattle which was very valuable to us in the past, especially because it comes at a critical time of the year and helps to keep up factory prices. Libya was an important outlet for our live cattle,” he said.

Haughey said that while Ireland was foregoing the Libyan live cattle trade, other EU countries had no such scruples: “Most member states are happily trading with the Libyans,” he claimed.

Aid to IRA

Libya is estimated to have provided over 120 tonnes of arms, ammunition and materiel to the Provisional IRA in the mid-1980s up to the capture of the ship, Eksund, which had been trying to smuggle 20 tonnes of arms into Ireland.

In an effort to improve its diplomatic relationship with Britain, Libya passed on information detailing its shipments, as well as the IRA members it had trained in the country. It also disclosed it had given the IRA over $12 million in financial aid throughout the 1980s.

The details are included in confidential Government files released to the National Archive.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times