Naval flagship scrapped as part of €700,000 disposal plan after museum proposal fell through and fears a public sale could see the LÉ Eithne fall into hands of a “warlord”

The Department of Defence said the scrapping of three Naval Service vessels was likely to cost up to €700,000 but that a public sale could not be considered in case one of the boats ended up being sold on to a “warlord”.

In briefing papers on future options for the flagship LÉ Eithne, which embarked on its final voyage in June ’24, officials said sale through public auction would mean the department “really has no control … as to who will end up with the ship or its ultimate destination if … sold onto a third party”.

The department were fearful about what had happened to another of their old vessels the LÉ Aisling, which was sold for €110,000 in 2017 before changing hands multiple times, and later sold for €1.3 million before ending up “in the hands of a Libyan warlord.”

In a ministerial submission, officials said recycling of the LÉ Eithne and two other boats – the LÉ Niamh and LÉ Orla – would be costly but “would give certainty on the ultimate destination” of the vessels.

It said recycling costs were typically based on tonnage with the two smaller boats weighing 650 tonnes each and the LÉ Eithne weighing 900 tonnes.

The submission said: “Market research has indicated that the costs involved in recycling these three ships could be up to approximately €700,000, including the cost of towing the vessels to their final destination.

“However, a more definitive cost will be known on receipt of tenders.”

Officials said there was a possibility of partially offsetting the recycling costs through the sale of a 57mm gun on the LÉ Eithne, which manufacturers BOFORs were interested in buying as “the only gun of its type still in working condition”.

Talks over donating the LÉ Eithne for use as a museum or tourist attraction had also taken place with two different county councils and Dublin Port; however, those options fell through, and the decision to recycle the boat was approved.