The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

Italy Bids last farewell to admiral declared persona non grata by Mintoff

Malta Independent Tuesday, 5 August 2008, 00:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

Italy has bid its last farewell to war veteran Admiral Gino Birindelli, who served as a Nato commander in Malta until Dom Mintoff declared him persona non grata when the Labour Party was elected to government in 1971.

Admiral Birindelli died aged 97 at the Celio military policlinic in Rome on Saturday, Italian news agency Ansa reported.

According to digital historical archive Archivio ‘900, during the 1971 electoral campaign in Malta, Admiral Birindelli had said that if the Labour Party won the election, Malta would lose its freedom (“Malta perderà la sua libertà”).

Admiral Birindelli, described as “an outspoken right-winger”, had accused Mr Mintoff of planning to let the Russians use Malta as a naval base.

The MLP did win the election, by a one-seat majority, and within days Admiral Birindelli was expelled from Malta, declared a persona sgradita, much to Nato’s chagrin – Admiral Birindelli was Nato’s NAVSOUTH commander in Malta.

The resolute action by the Mintoff government did not seem to have soured relations with Italy, which in time went on to assist Malta financially, much against the wishes of the Nationalist opposition.

Admiral Birindelli was awarded Italy’s Gold Medal for Military Valour, a Silver Medal and a Cross of Merit for his underwater assault on the British battleship HMS Barham during the Second World War.

He served in Malta heading the Mediterranean Command of the Nato Fleet, but resigned from the Navy after having been expelled from here, and went on to join the neo-fascist political party Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale.

He served in the Italian Parliament between 1972 and 1976.

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