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Calls for investigation as gardaí alerted to alleged smuggling at Baldonnel Airfield

Sinn Féín’s defence spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh told TheJournal.ie that he will be raising this issue with the Taoiseach as a matter of urgency.

The Government jet at Baldonnel.
The Government jet at Baldonnel.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

GARDAÍ BASED IN Dublin have been alerted by former members of the Defence Forces to alleged smuggling taking place at Baldonnel Airfield. 

The former members have alleged that a small number of people who had connections with Baldonnel were actively smuggling alcohol and tobacco into Ireland on a regular basis. 

One TD has called for an investigation into the allegations, and said he will raise the issue with the Taoiseach as a matter of urgency. 

The allegations came to light as officers attached to anti-terror units interviewed a number of former members of the Defence Forces in relation to alleged Islamic State sympathiser Lisa Smith.

Officers based in Dublin’s Harcourt Street have been interviewing a number of people who worked with Smith while she was part of the Air Corps.

Gardaí and the Defence Forces have been carrying out their own separate investigations into Smith and are attempting to find out if she might pose a risk to state security if she were to be allowed come home. This specific case has, according to well-placed sources, heightened tensions between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces who are both investigating the same matter. 

A Dundalk native, Smith previously worked in the Irish Defence Forces but left service in 2011 after converting to Islam. It is believed she departed for Syria in 2015 after her first marriage broke down. While there, she married a British IS fighter.

She is currently being held at the Al Hawl refugee camp on the Syrian border with Iraq, following the collapse of the group’s self-declared caliphate last year.

Gardaí have been interviewing former members of the Air Corps who worked alongside Smith when she was based at Baldonnel Airfield.

TheJournal.ie revealed last week that officers had travelled as far as Australia to interview former members of the Air Corps.

However, a number of people who spoke to gardaí about Smith said that officers were also concerned about allegations of smuggling which are alleged to have happened at Baldonnel Airfield during her time there. 

Gardaí have been told that smuggling was an “open secret” at Baldonnel. Some Air Corps members told them that they were aware of cases where crates of wine were unloaded from vehicles upon arrival in Dublin. 

Gardaí have told the former members that they might have to give formal statements in relation to these allegations if and when Smith returns. 

Contraband

Asked about now senior members of the Air Corps and their involvement in smuggling, one former member told TheJournal.ie that he was aware of a situation where contraband was unloaded from a flight from France. 

Gardaí then asked the former member about drugs and if he had heard about cocaine or other drugs being brought through Baldonnel. While that specific members of the Defence Forces had not seen hard drugs being brought through Baldonnel, he told officers that he had heard from colleagues that it had happened on occasion.

Sinn Féín’s defence spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh told TheJournal.ie that he will be raising this issue with the Taoiseach as a matter of urgency. 

He said: “I am concerned about the idea that smuggling is happening or has happened at Baldonnel Airfield. Any behaviour like this threatens the security of those on board flights and also threatens the security of the State. 

“I would call for this to be investigated and I will be bringing the matter up with the Taoiseach and the Department of Defence as a matter of urgency.” 

Smuggling at Baldonnel has been brought up in the Dáíl previously.

In 2010, then Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, said that there had been no searches at Baldonnel Airfield between 2009 and 2010 due to what he said was the low risk of smuggling. 

Responding to a parliamentary question, he said: “In relation to Baldonnel Aerodrome, no searches of aircraft have been carried out in the year 2009, or to date in 2010 on the basis that profiling of the traffic using the aerodrome and review of available intelligence suggests that the risk of smuggling through this location is minimal.”

A spokesman for the Defence Forces said: “In response to your query, while we do not comment on Garda investigations, Óglaigh na hÉireann is not aware of any smuggling during this period. If any smuggling activities are identified by the Air Corps at any time, a full investigation is undertaken as a matter of priority.”

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