Sinn Fein in Gaddafi U-turn: Despot who backed IRA denounced by republicans
Published 23/02/2011 | 17:00
Sinn Fein has called on embattled Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to step down and allow an election to take place.
The statement formally ends a long-standing alliance between the Libyan ruler and the republican movement, which he armed and funded in the 1970s/80s.
A Sinn Fein spokesman declared: “We are opposed to these absolutist regimes.
“His support of the republican cause in the past is irrelevant.
“What you have now is people being shot down in their own streets just as the British shot Irish protesters on the streets of their home towns, for instance on Bloody Sunday.”
Gaddafi, who deposed King Idris of Libya in a bloodless coup in 1969, started supporting the IRA in August 1971 after he saw Joe Cahill, then its chief of staff, give a defiant televised Press conference in which he said only 30 IRA members had been arrested in the internment swoops.
Regarding the IRA as an enemy of colonialism, he started supplying it with weapons.
Gaddafi brought Cahill to Tripoli, the Libyan capital, to arrange the supply of arms and money.
Cahill was arrested aboard the MV Claudia with five tons of Libyan weapons in 1973. The most significant arms shipments were delivered in 1986 after the US accused Gaddafi of sponsoring an attack on American soldiers in Germany and bombed Tripoli from bases in Britain.
Around 60 Libyans were killed and Nasser Al-Ashour, a Libyan intelligence agent, again made contact with the IRA. This time up to 400 tons of weapons were landed in three shipments before the final consignment of 120 tons was seized when the MV Eksund was intercepted crossing the Bay of Biscay by French Customs in 1987.
The weapons and munitions which had already landed, including heavy machine-guns and Semtex explosives, equipped the IRA for the remainder of its campaign.
Later Gaddafi made peace with Britain and gave complete inventories to the UK authorities of the arms he had supplied.
Relations improved so much that PSNI officers were sent to train Libyan police in counter-insurgency methods, which may well now be used against demonstrators.
Last night Amnesty International called on the PSNI to reconsider counter-terrorism training to absolutist regimes like Libya and Bahrain.
Gaddafi and his son Saif had also entered British Government-sponsored talks on possible compensation and peace-building payments to Northern Ireland.