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Defence Forces response to Libya training shows concern over reputational risk

Micheál Martin is examining legislation to prevent former and serving soldiers performing private security work in countries subject to sanctions

The efforts by Defence Forces military intelligence to stop serving personnel travelling to Libya to train rogue military forces underscores how concerned the organisation is about the potential reputational risks.

As reported recently in The Irish Times, Irish Training Solutions, an Offaly-based security company founded by former Army Ranger Wing members, has been providing training to units of the Libyan National Army, which is controlled by Russia-backed general Khalifa Haftar.

The problem for the Defence Forces and the Irish Government is ITS has been recruiting from the Army Ranger Wing, the most elite Defence Forces unit.

Libya is subject to United Nations and European Union arms embargoes, which include the provision of military training.


The potential for reputational damage to Ireland on the world stage is high.

In response, the Irish military intelligence bureau, J2, has been examining bank records of serving soldiers to check for possible lines to involvement by Irish security companies in private military contracting.

This is being done in the context of companies, including ITS, recruiting serving Defence Forces personnel, including former Army Ranger Wing members.

Certain soldiers’ bank accounts were checked for suspicious payments from external sources, and individuals with links to ITS have been interviewed.

The Garda has also been tasked with examining if any criminal offences have been committed and Tánaiste Micheál Martin is examining legislation to prevent former and serving soldiers performing private security work in countries subject to international sanctions.

Dozens of photos and video clips show former Irish soldiers providing weapons training to members of Haftar’s 166th Infantry Battalion.

Other photos show ITS founder Danny Cluskey signing papers in the office of Saddam Haftar, Khalifa’s son who holds several senior commands in the LNA, which is the main opposition force to the UN-backed Tripoli government.

In its first public statement on the matter yesterday, ITS insisted it has never signed a contract with Haftar himself.

“No contract exists or has ever existed between Mr Khalifa Haftar and Irish Training Solutions,” the company said in response to queries.

The Offaly company said it has a contract with the State-owned Libyan National Oil Corporation “to provide security training services”.

“This training forms part of the ongoing security programme of the National Oil Corporation to protect its critical infrastructure and assets,” the company said.

“Irish Training Solutions was contracted directly by the Libyan National Oil Corporation, which is a fully-owned state company with responsibility for controlling oil and gas production and overseeing all petroleum activities in Libya.”

Asked to explain the connection between providing security training for the oil company and the training provided to Haftar’s 166th infantry battalion, ITS did not respond to additional, detailed queries on the matter.