‘Positive Neutrality’: Revisiting Libyan Support of the Provisional IRA in the 1980s


  • Daniel J. Haverty Jr. University College Cork




The Provisional IRA’s campaign against the British state in Northern Ireland (1969–1998) attracted a wide range of attention from the Third World, especially from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Under the leadership of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan government sent enormous supplies of weapons to the Provisional IRA in the middle of the 1980s. This article examines the events surrounding the Libyan government’s support of the Provisional IRA and assesses its long-term impact on both the republican movement and the conflict itself. The changing power dynamic within the republican movement and the consequent ascendance of Sinn Féin in the late 1980s and early 1990s proved vital to the burgeoning peace process that followed. The injection of Libyan weapons into Northern Ireland was a crucial part of those developments. By focusing on Libya’s role in this particular phase of the conflict, this article emphasises its transformational consequences and argues that the Libyan dimension must be considered integral in order to properly assess the critical changes that occurred in Northern Ireland in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Author Biography

Daniel J. Haverty Jr., University College Cork

Daniel J. Haverty Jr. received his B.A. in Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross in the United States, and is currently a M.A. candidate in International Relations at the University College Cork in the Republic of Ireland. His research interests include modern North American and European political and social history, with emphases on Britain, Ireland and the United States. His master’s dissertation focuses on the role of the Anglo-Irish relationship in the 1990s Northern Ireland peace process.

Photo Courtesy of Diarmuid O’Hare