Cablegate: Irish Views On Progress of Northern Ireland Peace

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Classified By: DCM Robert J. Faucher; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary: During her visit to Ireland January 16,
EUR/WE Office Director Kathy Allegrone met with Department of
Foreign Affairs Anglo-Irish Division Director General Pat
Hennessy, and Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister)
International Affairs Advisor Martin Fraser, to discuss the
Irish view of the current state of the Northern Ireland peace
process. Both officials expressed gratification that the
process has proceeded so well in such a short time, but
identified a number of problems. Lack of capability in the
Northern Ireland civil service, they said, could adversely
affect economic development and community reconciliation, as
well as the planned investment conference in May 2008. They
identified this summer's marching season as a potential
flashpoint for trouble. Neither official appeared unduely
worried that the peace process will founder over the issue of
the devolution of policing and justice, though they thought
the May 2008 timetable for devolution is likely to slip. We
are confident that we will get a quick heads-up from the
Irish if they think the peace process is beginning to falter
seriously. End Summary.

2. (C) The Taoiseach's International Advisor, Martin Fraser,
pointed to the civil service of the Northern Ireland Assembly
(NIA) as in need of reform. Not only is it too big, he said,
it is also generally unresponsive to the sort of innovative
change needed as the North develops its economy and
reconciles its communities. He noted, in particular, that
key officials in the bureaucracy appear reluctant to deal
with Government of Ireland officials or support North-South
cooperation -- a hangover, he said, from the days of
sectarian violence when the Government of Ireland was
perceived by many unionists in the North to be siding with
republican militants.

3. (C) Of immediate concern, Fraser noted, is the
USG-sponsored investment conference, planned for May 2008.
Fraser indicated that the Irish Government would feel more
confident in the success of the conference if organizers in
the NIA Ministry of Enterprise, Trade, and Investment were
more forthcoming in communicating with their counterparts in
the South. Fraser mused that the communication difficulties
could be caused by the Minister of Enterprise, Trade, and
Investment Nigel Dodds, a staunch unionist.

4. (C) Fraser also said he thought the Northern Ireland
civil service -- and, indeed, the politicians -- were very
inexperienced at playing on the international stage. He
commented that they seemed to take access to senior officials
in the UK, EU and U.S. for granted and didn't take good
advantage of such access, not realizing that the window of
opportunity for such contacts is closing. He concluded that
the Assembly needs all the help it can get.

5. On a positive note, Fraser said there have been many
useful contacts between Northern Ireland politicians and the
Irish Government. Fraser mentioned that when NIA members go
overseas, they seek out assistance from the Irish Embassy
rather than their own NIA liaison offices. He commented that
when Nigel Dodds was in Washington recently, he sought out a
photo opportunity with Irish Ambassador Michael Collins in
the Irish Embassy -- a place Dodds would have regarded as
"enemy territory" not so long ago. Pat Hennessy noted that
NIA First Minister Ian Paisley asked the Irish Embassy in
Brussels to coordinate his recent visit there.

6. (C) Fraser stated that the Government of Ireland is still
working within the framework of the Good Friday Agreement,
which includes the devolution of policing and justice from
Westminister to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Fraser said
the Irish Government understands the fundamental conflict
between the unionist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which
is reluctant to devolve policing and justice in May 2008, and
the republican Sinn Fein party, which agreed in Janaury 2007
to endorse policing in the North based, in part, on an
understanding that policing and justice would be devolved in
May 2008. Both sides, he said, have legitimate concerns
about meeting the expectations of their rank-and-file

7. (C) However, Fraser said, contacts the Irish Government
has had with Sinn Fein so far indicate that Sinn Fein is not
yet overly worried about the May 2008 deadline. In coming
weeks, Fraser pointed out, the political process will
proceed, including the outcome of the NIA Committee on
Devolution of Policing and Justice, led by DUP member Jeffrey

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Donaldson. Fraser said that the negotiating process could
well produce the desired result. He wryly commented, "We
will know when Sinn Fein is really worried." (Note: Sinn
Fein President Gerry Adams met recently with both the Consul
General in Belfast (reftel) and Ambassador Foley in Dublin to
express his concern about not meeting the May 2008 deadline.
End Note.) The bottom line, in Fraser's opinion, is that
devolution of policing and justice will occur this year, but
probably not in May.

8. (C) In spite of two trouble-free seasons, both Fraser and
Hennessy identified this summer's marching season, which will
be underway in May when devolution is scheduled to occur, as
a potential flashpoint for trouble.

9. (C) Hennessy's views largely coincided with that of
Fraser, including some unease about the capabilities of the
NIA politicians, the NIA civil service, and the progress of
planning for the May 2008 investment conference. Hennessy
felt that the recent meeting of Ian Paisley and Martin
McGuinness with President Bush made a significant
contribution to cementing the peace, noting that since that
visit, Paisley seemed more comfortable in his role.

10. (C) Commenting on the issue of policing and justice in
the North, Hennessy acknowledged the difficulty of achieving
devolution, but noted some positive signs. He commented that
Paisley has not said anything recently that would make it
more difficult to proceed with devolution negotiations, that
each side has been careful to deal with other contentious
issues in ways that do not scotch the negotiations over
devolution, that both sides understand the significance of
policing and justice and their responsibilities under the
Good Friday Agreement and St. Andrew's Agreement, and that
the ongoing work of the NIA Committee on the Devolution of
Policing and Justice demonstrates that the DUP wants to be
ready to implement devolution when the political time is
ripe. Hennessy agreed with Fraser that devolution will
occur, though not necessarily in May, saying, "It's an
article of faith that the DUP will break the May 2008

11. (C) Hennessy said it will be very important that outside
forces -- the U.S., the British Government, and the Irish
Government -- continue to robustly remind the DUP of their
obligation to accept the devolution of policing and justice.
The DUP will need such pressure to persuade its rank-and-file
that it has no choice, Hennessy declared, and will expect
such pressure to be forthcoming. In the end, Hennessy
stated, the Government of Ireland will accede to whatever
timeframe for devolution Sinn Fein and the DUP agree between

12. (C) Comment: The Irish Government does not appear to be
unduely worried at this point that the peace process will
founder over the issue of the devolution of policing and
justice, though the timetable for such devolution is in
question. We are confident that we will get a quick heads-up
from the Irish if they think the process is beginning to
falter seriously.


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