Irish citizens should not be involved in work like training Libyan forces - Berry

Former Army Ranger Cathal Berry says law should be changed to ‘ensure properly functioning regime for enforcing international sanctions’

Danny Cluskey

Irish citizens should not be involved in the type of work that saw former Defence Forces soldiers training Libyan military forces, Independent TD Cathal Berry has said.

The former Defence Forces officer also said the law should be changed to “ensure a properly functioning regime for enforcing international sanctions on corporate entities”.

His comments come after The Irish Times revealed that former members of the Defence Forces have been providing military training for the forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar in an apparent breach of a United Nations arms embargo.

Offaly-based company Irish Training Solutions, which was founded by former Irish soldiers, recruited departing and former members of the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) and Defence Forces to train part of Haftar’s 166 Infantry Brigade into a special forces unit.


The training took place last year in the part of eastern Libya controlled by Haftar, who is backed by Russian Wagner mercenaries, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as a challenger to the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.

The situation runs counter to the efforts of the Government, which last year deployed a naval ship to help international efforts to enforce the arms embargo.

Kildare South TD Mr Berry is a former senior officer in the ARW.

Asked about former Defence Forces personnel training Libyan forces he said: “I don’t think any Irish citizen should be engaged in that type of work – even though it is the norm internationally.”

He said: “Whether they were former guards, soldiers or prison officers is irrelevant” and he added: “The current employer is responsible, not the previous one.

“The fact that there is an almost non-existent sanction enforcement regime on incorporated entities in Ireland is the main learning point here.

“This sector of corporate Ireland needs to be effectively regulated, as currently it clearly is not.”

Mr Berry said that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment “have jurisdiction” and he suggested amendments are needed to the Companies Act “to ensure a properly functioning regime for enforcing international sanctions on corporate entities”.

He said there is “a whole section needed on the State’s compliance and enforcement of international sanctions (eg on North Korea, Iran, Russia etc)”.

Mr Berry also cited issues with how compliance is monitored and with what penalties can be applied to individuals and corporate entities who knowingly breach sanctions that Ireland has signed up to, as well as appeals mechanisms.

The Government has opened an investigation into alleged breaches of UN sanctions by the company involved in the training in Libya.

A spokesman for Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin confirmed that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has opened an investigation into the allegations, as the relevant competent authority for possible breaches of sanctions.

“This investigation is at an early stage and all avenues will be pursued,” the spokesman said.

Mr Martin has also asked his officials to examine the strengthening of legislation to regulate the activities of former and serving Defence Forces personnel in countries subject to UN or EU sanctions.

“No Irish citizen should knowingly be involved in activities that breach these sanctions, least of all former members of the Irish Defence Forces,” the spokesman said.

Danny Cluskey, a co-owner of Irish Training Solutions and former soldier, wore the patches of his former unit, the ARW, on his combat fatigues while conducting the training, according to photographs.

“I have nothing to say about it,” said Cluskey (58), whose company is based in Clara, Co Offaly, when previously contacted by The Irish Times and he declined to answer detailed questions put to him.

The other directors of Irish Training Solutions did not respond to repeated requests for comment last month, nor explain how the provision of such training was not in breach of the UN arms embargo.

The company did not respond to queries delivered to their office premises in Clara last week.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times