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'Iraq owes us £5m': Ireland's prep ahead of a 1987 visit from one of Saddam's 'Dirty Dozen'

Departmental notes express concern about getting back the £5 million owed to Ireland in export payments.

Image: ABACA/PA Images

STATE PAPERS FROM 1987 reveal the Irish government intended to keep plans to increase the quantity of export credit in the Iraqi market secret from the Iraqi government so it could exert pressure to get back £5 million owed to Ireland in export payments.

In a departmental note ahead of a visit to Ireland from Iraq’s then Minister for Transport and Communications Mohammed Hamza, the Taoiseach was told the Iraqis were on a world tour to seek additional credit lines from their international suppliers.

Hamza was known as one of ‘Saddam’s Dirty Dozen’, the list of prominent people in Iraq who had largely been responsible for human rights abuses. He was Prime Minister of Iraq between 1991 and 1993 and had played a key role in the suppression of the 1991 Shiite uprising.

The note says Ireland is anxious to increase trade with Iraq, but there are “payment difficulties”.

Iraq owes is about £5 million in outstanding payments for exports. They are not defaulting on payments, but are taking longer credit periods which creates difficulties for our exporters.

The goes on to say the government recently decided to increase the quantity of export credit in respect of the Iraqi market to facilitate substantial beef export contracts.

“For tactical reasons, however, the minister for trade and marketing does not wish the Iraqis to know of the decision just now as it would undermine efforts he will be making to get them to make the outstanding payments to us”.

The Taoiseach was advised to emphasise that Iraq is an important market for Ireland, but that “money due to us is causing difficulties and we would welcome a resolution of this problem”.

The departmental note referenced service exports to Iraq, including a contract awarded to Parc – a subsidiary of Aer Lingus at the time – for the management of Ibn Al Bitar Hospital in Baghdad, which employed around 230 doctors, nurses and secretarial staff. The contract was worth £14 million to the company and the note said it was hoped that there would be an extension.

CIE were also “anxious to get consultancy contracts” in Iraq for the maintenance and construction of the railway system.

The note also suggests the Taoiseach should inform Hamza that Ireland is strictly neutral on the Gulf War. “We are deeply concerned at the continuation of this way and the resultant increase in tension in the Persian Gulf”.

A separate note from the Middle East section of the Department of Foreign Affairs also said Ireland had made it clear on several occasions “our strong condemnation of the use of chemical weapons”.

“It is a source of deep concern to us that such violations should continue despite repeated and pressing appeals by the international community”.

Hamza arrived in Ireland on 20 September 1987 and stayed in the Burlington Hotel in Dublin for three nights.

His itinerary included a dinner, hosted by Parc, at the Shelbourne Hotel, a tour of the National Museum’s treasures section and a visit to the Chester Beatty Library.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Hamza was captured in 2003 and died of natural causes two years later in a US military hospital.

Read: ‘You couldn’t open your mouth about Saddam Hussein. He was the God in Iraq’

Read: Donald Trump praises Saddam Hussein for ‘killing off terrorists’>

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