STATE PAPERS DATING back to 1983 have revealed that the then Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism Frank Cluskey was strongly opposed to a UK military vehicle manufacturer setting up shop in Ireland.
Correspondence between the department, the minister’s advisers and the company shows that the the Labour Minister Cluskey said he was not in favour of the “manufacture here, for export, of arms or armaments in the sense of lethal military equipment”.
Gomba Stonefield Limited wrote to the Department of Trade, Commerce and Tourism and said they had been in discussions with the Irish Industrial Development Authority (IDA) about establishing a factory in southern Ireland.
The vehicles they said they made were four-wheeled trucks, with versions of the vehicle being manufactured for “military use”. Before their discussions went further with the IDA they said they wanted to ensure they would be granted an export licence.
They acknowledged Ireland’s reluctance to allow military manufacturers establish in Ireland.
In a department briefing, the document states that the firm’s largest order is “a military one”. However, it adds that the vehicles “are more of a supply truck than a front-line vehicle”.
The brief says they found it difficult to take a “negative” view of the proposal but said that the licence restriction may need to happen depending on where the vehicles were being shipped to in terms of the country’s “regime” and the “tensions” there.
State papers show the minister felt the government needed to “adopt an unduly restrictive attitude to proposals involving the manufacture in Ireland for export” of items that were linked to warfare equipment.
The document adds that when the minister was briefed on the issue he said that the “political issue” was determining where the equipment might be sent to.
One document states that the minister said that the Gomba Stonefield proposal was “premature to look into” and wasn’t sure it would even be economically viable and worthy of IDA support.
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