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Officials to ‘immediately review’ rules on outside work for soldiers after Libya revelations

Defence Forces Chief says he ‘cannot stand over the actions in any shape or form’

Department of Defence officials are conducting an immediate review of the rules around soldiers engaging in “parallel employment”, following revelations that Irish troops have been recruited to work as private military contractors in Libya.

Meanwhile, Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Seán Clancy has called this activity “very disappointing” and says he “cannot stand over the actions in any shape or form”.

Last month, The Irish Times published an investigation detailing how Irish Training Solutions (ITS), a company founded by former members of the elite Army Ranger Wing, is training a special forces unit of the Russian-backed Libyan National Army (LNA), led by rogue general Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, in an apparent contravention of EU and UN arms embargoes on the country.

The investigation found that serving soldiers were being actively recruited to travel to Libya to work for ITS. In a number of cases, troops were suspected of working for ITS while still active members of the Defence Forces.


The matter is currently subject to investigations by the Military Police with the assistance of An Garda Síochána.

“The first thing I would say is former members of the Defence Forces acting in a manner that undermines the values and ethos that we espouse as an organisation is very disappointing,” said Lieut Gen Seán Clancy.

“I cannot stand over the actions in any shape or form”, he told The Irish Times, adding that the Defence Forces takes internal security “very seriously”.

“Obviously, if we need to enhance our legislation around this area, we are looking at that for sure. And that’s something that’s part of our normal processes. And if it’s determined we need to enhance those, we will do so for sure.”

Defence Forces regulations forbid serving members from engaging in outside security work. However, officials worry these are not strong enough.

Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin has ordered defence officials to review legislation “pertaining to parallel employment; permissions for annual and special leave outside the State; and proposals for making the regulatory underpinning, and subsequent sanctions for any such breaches, more robust.

“This reflects my view that the current legislative underpinning around external employment for members of the Defence Forces requires an immediate review,” he told the Dáil last week.

Lieut Gen Clancy has been asked to provide military advice on the matter to “identify any gaps” that exist.

As part of this process, defence officials are examining policies around parallel employment across the rest of the public service, a department spokesman said.

Meanwhile, ITS has resumed training in Libya. A recent photograph seen by The Irish Times shows troops of the LNA’s 166 Infantry Brigade undergoing counterterrorism beside the shell of an aircraft.

As well as assisting the Military Police, Gardaí are carrying out their own assessment on whether criminal offences have been committed in relation to UN and EU sanctions. A spokesman said this process is still ongoing.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent