• December 21, 2013


The appearance of a submarine off the coast of Donegal coast in Ireland/Eire this week, narrowly missing a fishing boat, prompted a plethora of enquiries from journalists wanting to speak with the League’s Director of Information, Bernard Moffatt.

Mr Moffatt has previously campaigned successfully on the use of submarines in the Celtic Sea and is an internationally renowned amateur expert on military activity in the Celtic countries. Some of the material produced by Mr Moffatt has been archived in the Manx National Heritage Library, Mannin/Isle of Man and the National Library of Wales, Aberystwth, Cymru/Wales, with some online material on the Celtic League website, which can be accessed by clicking on the link below. 

Mr Moffatt said that from a photograph of the submarine sent to him that he was 99% certain that it was a Royal Navy Astute class hunter-killer.

A statement to journalists produced by Mr Moffatt on Wednesday explained some of the background to his work and some of the reasons for his concerns:

“You asked about Submarine activity of the NW of Ireland in the mid seventies.

I can advise that its well known that both the Irish Sea (particularly the area known as the Beaufort trench which runs down the East coast of Ireland) and also the area to the North West of Ireland and South of the Hebrides were very active to submarine traffic.

The reason for this was at the height of the Cold War the US maintained a base on the Clyde at Holy Loch and the Royal Navy maintained their fleet of ballistic missile subs (SSBNs) at Faslane also on the Clyde.

There could be over twenty nuclear submarines based on the Clyde at any time.

When US or RN ballistic submarines left for their patrol area they either went North via the Ireland Hebrides gap or south via the Irish Sea. To complicate matters SSBNs were usually accompanied by two (or even on occasion three other hunter killer type subs (SSNs) whose role was to confuse any Soviet submaines waiting to detect and shadow the departing NATO SSBNs.

So both areas could have considerable traffic at times and indeed off both the NW of Ireland and in the Irish Sea the Soviets also stationed ‘trawler’ AGIs (Auxiliaries Gathering Intelligence) to also attempt to locate the submarines.

In addition (confusing isn’t it) the US, RN and other NATO countries also used both areas as submarine exercise areas.

The Celtic League started it military monitoring campaign in the late seventies but it was not until 1982 that we concentrated on the submarine issue (following the sinking of the Irish MFV Sheralga in the Irish sea).

We subsequently built up quite a dossier of information on (approx 170 incidents) possible sinkings, snagging and accidents. We succesfully pressed for international action via the IMO and in the early 1990s the UK RN adopted a notification system to mariners which was a major breakthrough.

By the way don’t ask me for a copy of the dossier because it and all other correspondence news reports etc were deposited at the Manx National Heritage Library when we wound down the campaign over a decade ago.

The most recent in depth media report on this was on the French TV3 and TV5 Monde ‘Thalassa programme; in which they interview fishermen and politicians in Ireland and they also came to the IOM and filmed me at the MNH archive – those interviews are in English so it may help you to get a copy from them. they also concentrated on losses of Breton (French) fishing boats including the most recent the MFV Bugaled Breizh.

I hope this is helpful.

Bernard Moffatt”

Celtic League archive material:

Some of the news articles relating to the incident can be found below:

Donegal Daily:


Irish Mirror:


The Sunday World:



For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
General Secretary, Celtic League
M: 07787318666

The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.
Internet site at:



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