Aisling (P23)

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LE Aisling.jpg
Aisling at Haulbowline, September 2007
Namesake: Aisling, a vision poem
Builder: Verolme Dockyard, Cork
Laid down: 31 January 1979
Launched: 3 October 1979
Commissioned: 21 May 1980
Decommissioned: 22 June 2016[1]
Homeport: Haulbowline Naval Base
Fate: Decommissioned
Status: Decommissioned
Name: Al-Karama
Commissioned: May 2018
Homeport: Benghazi
Status: in active service
General characteristics
Class and type: Emer class OPV
Type: Offshore patrol vessel
Displacement: 1019.5 tonnes standard
Length: 65.2 m (214 ft) overall
Beam: 10.5 m (34 ft)
Draught: 4.4 m (14 ft)
Speed: 31.5 km/h (17.0 kn) maximum
Complement: 46 (5 officers and 41 ratings )
  • 1 × Bofors 40 mm (1.6 in) L70
  • 2 × Rheinmetall Rh202 20 mm (0.79 in) Cannons
  • ?x 7.62 mm (0.300 in) GPMG

Aisling of the Irish Naval Service, now known as Al-Karama of the Libyan National Army, was built as a patrol vessel in Verolme Dockyard, Cork, Ireland in 1979.

In service with the Irish Naval Service from 1980 to 2016, the ship was originally named after the poem, Aisling, to commemorate the centenary of the birth of the poet and nationalist Patrick Pearse.[2] During her career, Aisling participated in the Sonia and Marita Ann incidents, and was one of the first ships to arrive on the scene of the Air India Flight 182 disaster, and subsequently participated in recovery operations.[3] It was the adopted ship of Galway,[1] and officially decommissioned in its adopted city in June 2016.[1]

Sold in March 2017 to a Dutch broker for €110,000 ($129,000), in May 2017 the vessel was offered for re-sale with an equivalent asking price of €685,000 ($750,000). It was reportedly commissioned as the flagship of the Libyan National Army in May 2018, and named Al-Karama (dignity).[4]


There were three Emer Class offshore patrol vessels (Modified version of Deirdre Class) built for the Irish Naval Service; Aisling was the last, built at Verolme Dockyard in Cork. Offshore patrol vessels were designed to patrol the Irish EEZ. Aisling's main weapon system is a Bofors 40mm Cannon capable of firing 240 2.5 kg shells a minute at a range of 1 km.[5] Her secondary weapons system included two Rheinmetall 20mm Cannons capable of firing 1000 shells per minute at the range of 2 km.[5]

Operational history[edit]

Sonia incident[edit]

In 1984 LÉ Aisling was involved an international incident with a 330-ton Spanish fishing trawler called Sonia, based in the Basque port of Ondarroa. Aisling came across Sonia illegally fishing in Irish waters south of the Saltee Islands near County Wexford. Sonia quickly retrieved its gear before Aisling could send a boarding party. When Sonia got underway, she would have hit Aisling amidships had the patrol vessel's engines not been put full astern. As it was, Sonia missed Aisling by 10 feet, a small margin given the weather conditions. According to the captain, the heavy trawler's hull would have sliced Aisling's thin plating.[citation needed]

The episode continued with Aisling giving chase and firing 600 warning shots. Sonia turned towards Aisling numerous times causing the latter to take evasive action. After five hours pursuing the Sonia the captain of the Aisling was ordered to break off as she approached British waters.[6]

When Aisling returned to its base in Haulbowline, Cobh that evening, news was fed back that Sonia sank due to sea conditions and both a German freighter and a Sea King helicopter flying out of RAF Brawdy had rescued the 13 crewmen. The Spaniards denied that any attempt had been made to ram Aisling and accused the Naval Service of causing their ship to sink by riddling it with gunfire. The Irish Government denied this, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peter Barry, TD, reiterated this to the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, who happened to be in Luxembourg negotiating Spain's entry to the EEC.[citation needed]

Marita Ann incident[edit]

During September 1984, the vessel was involved in the arrest of the Marita Ann off the southwest coast of Ireland, which carried a cargo of arms and ammunition consigned to the IRA. Emer, LÉ Aisling and Deirdre maintained some distance until the arms entered Irish territorial waters. The contraband had come from the United States, and crossed the Atlantic on a fishing trawler, the Valhalla. She did not approach the Irish coast, but transferred her illicit cargo to the Marita Ann outside Irish waters. The intelligence services were aware of the plot, and Valhalla's voyage had been monitored by international agencies, and the naval service had begun to lay a trap once the Marita Ann left Dingle. Aisling (Lt Cdr J.Robinson) and Emer left Haulbowline, with Gardaí onboard both vessels.[citation needed] Marita Ann's course was plotted and by midnight it was 1,800 yards into territorial waters. Emer made a full-speed intercept and when half-a-mile off the target, called on her to stop. Such signals were ignored, and the vessel, which when illuminated by Emer's searchlights was revealed as Marita Ann, altered course. The Marita Ann could not outrun either vessel, and Aisling moved into a position to prevent a breakout. After four rounds of tracer had been put across her bows, Marita Ann gave up two miles inside the limit. The Naval Service/Garda boarding party met no resistance, and found five men and a large quantity of ammunition and arms on board.[citation needed]

Two men, Martin Ferris and Gavin Mortimer were taken on board the Emer, John P. Crawley (a United States citizen) and John McCarthy were transferred to the Aisling, and Michael "Mike" Browne (aged 42) remained on the Marita Ann, which was towed by Aisling. The convoy, escorted by LE Deirdre, made its way to Haulbowline, Cobh, where a gathering of international media awaited its arrival.[citation needed]

Decommissioning from Irish service[edit]

Lieutenant Commander Roberta O'Brien, the state's first female commander of a Naval Service ship, took command of LÉ Aisling in 2008.[7]

The vessel was officially decommissioned in its adopted city of Galway in June 2016.[1]

At the time of decommissioning, a proposal was made to potentially convert Aisling into a museum ship in Galway as a tourist attraction.[8] However, while representatives of the Department of Defence advised that the proposal was "under consideration" as of December 2016, it was noted that the vessels of the type may be "unsuitable for conversion to use as museums or visitor attractions".[8]

Sale and Libyan service[edit]

Aisling was put up for a public auction on 23 March 2017 at the Carrigaline Hotel in County Cork,[9] and was purchased by a Dutch broker for his clients for a reported price of €110,000, there being no other higher bids.[10] As of 10 May 2017, the vessel was listed on a brokerage website with an asking price of $750,000 (€685,000),[11][12] with the difference between sale price and asking price attracting attention from representative groups.[13][14]

In 2018 LÉ Aisling was commissioned, under the name Al Karama, as the flagship of the Libyan National Army's Navy.[15][4]


  1. ^ a b c d "Minister praises LE Aisling's link with UHG Childrens' [sic] Ward at decommissioning ceremony". Galway Bay FM. 22 June 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Irish Naval Service - LE Aisling". Irish Defence Forces. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011.
  3. ^ Jiwa, Salim. (1986) The death of Air India Flight 182, London: Star; ISBN 0-352-31952-6, Chapter 5.
  4. ^ a b "Libyan National Army takes delivery of ex-Irish OPV". Janes. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Irish Naval Service Weaponry". Irish Defence Forces. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011.
  6. ^ "The Irish Sink Spanish Trawler". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 October 1984.
  7. ^ "Galway greets first female naval commander, Roberta O'Brien". Irish Times. 15 November 2008.
  8. ^ a b "Government considering LE Aisling museum proposal". Connacht Tribune. 4 December 2016.
  9. ^ "Fancy owning a naval ship? 'LÉ Aisling' to be auctioned". Irish Times. 24 February 2017.
  10. ^ Roche, Barry. "Dutch buyer purchases LÉ 'Aisling' ship for €110,000". Irish Times. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Fisheries Patrol Vessel for sale in Holland". 10 May 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  12. ^ "Fisheries Patrol Vessel for sale in Holland" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Group representing Defence Forces concerned after L.E. Aisling being sold for six times what Government sold it for". 15 May 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  14. ^ "'It's embarrassing': LÉ Aisling sold by State for €110k - it's now on the market for nearly €700k". The Journal. 15 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  15. ^ "Libya commissions ex-LÉ Aisling". Libyan National Army. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.


  • MacGinty, Tom. (1995) The Irish Navy - A story of courage and tenacity, 1st Irish Ed., Tralee: Kerryman; ISBN 0-946277-22-2, Chapter 18.