Dáil Éireann - Volume 352 - 16 October, 1984

Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers - Government Relations with Libya.

8. Mr. Taylor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on Government relations with Libya.

Mr. Cooney: Ireland and Libya agreed in July 1977 to establish diplomatic relations on a non-residential basis. The Irish Ambassador to Italy is currently also [2383] accredited to Tripoli. The head of the Libyan People's Bureau in London had been accredited to Dublin; following the breaking of relations between the UK and Libya no new arrangement has yet been made for Libyan accreditation to Dublin.

The Government were gravely concerned by remarks reported to have been made in April and May by Colonel Gaddafi about possible Libyan support for the IRA. We have made clear in a number of subsequent contacts with the Libyan authorities the total unacceptability of Libyan support for, or offers of support for the IRA.

Economic co-operation between Ireland and Libya is discussed in the Irish-Libyan Joint Commission on Economic, Industrial, Scientific and Technological Co-operation. That commission is due to meet in Tripoli this year but dates have not yet been arranged. Libya is an important market for Irish exports with the trade balance heavily in Ireland's favour. The Libyan authorities have urged the Government to redress the imbalance by purchasing Libyan oil. Cost is the main factor against this.

Mr. Taylor: Is the Minister aware of the operation of Libyan extermination squads throughout Europe? Is account being taken to ensure that they do not and cannot operate against Libyan citizens in this country who are opponents of Colonel Gaddafi?

Mr. Cooney: I am aware of newspaper reports to the effect that the Deputy suggests. Of course, the security forces of the State will be always alert to guard against any such happening in this jurisdiction.

Mr. G. Collins: Can the Minister give us the latest figures for trade with Libya? Is it still the case that, while we have exports worth tens of millions of pounds to Libya, our imports are virtually nil?

Mr. Cooney: It is not a case that our [2384] imports are virtually nil. As I indicated in answer to the question, the balance is in our favour. In 1983 our exports were worth IR£49 million while imports were valued in IR£25.8 million. Therefore, the balance is heavily in our favour, but it is not true to say that our imports are virtually nil, far from it.

Mr. G. Collins: Can the Minister give us reasons why the meeting of the commission on the co-operation agreement which was established between the two countries which was scheduled to take place last May did not take place, having regard to the fact that we are in danger of losing very lucrative markets with the Libyans unless we are seen to be serious about the way we do our business with them?

Mr. Cooney: I think that the Deputy is satisfied that we are serious about how we do our business with Libya and any other country with which we trade. I have no reason as to why the meeting the Deputy refers to was postponed, but the Deputy can be satisfied that it will not be postponed in any way that would prejudice our trade.

Mr. G. Collins: Did the initiative for the postponement of the meeting scheduled for earlier this year come from this Government or the Libyan government?

Mr. Cooney: I have not got that information. If the Deputy puts down a separate question I will get the information for him.

Mr. G. Collins: Will the Minister communicate that information to me?

Mr. Cooney: I will.