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Cablegate: The President's Meeting with Irish President Mary

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L DUBLIN 000944

SIPDIS

FOR WHITE HOUSE FROM AMBASSADOR JAMES C. KENNY

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/23/2009
TAGS: PREL PGOV
SUBJECT: THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH IRISH PRESIDENT MARY
MCALEESE - JUNE 26, 2004

REF: DUBLIN 867

Classified By: Ambassador James C. Kenny, reason 1.4 (d)

1. (U) This message provides information for the
President's meeting with Irish President Mary McAleese at
Dromoland Castle on June 26, prior to the start of the
U.S.-EU Summit.

The Role of Irish President
---------------------------

2. (U) President McAleese became the eighth Irish
President in November 1997. She was directly elected by the
people and serves a seven-year term as the head of state; the
head of government is Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. The
President is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, but
Irish law requires approval by the Parliament and by the
Government before any troops can be deployed overseas -- and
then only to UN-mandated missions.

3. (U) Although she does not have an executive or policy
role in her capacity as President, Mary McAleese has been
extremely active in representing Ireland around the world,
receiving foreign leaders in Dublin, and promoting peace and
reconciliation with Northern Ireland. She has also been an
active promoter of Ireland's economy, and led a delegation to
China last year to encourage greater trade with that nation.

Northern Ireland
----------------

4. (C) Mary McAleese, a Catholic, is the first Irish
President to come from Northern Ireland. Both she and her
husband Martin were born and raised in Belfast, and their
families suffered attacks during "The Troubles." They are
both deeply engaged in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Martin -- whose childhood home was destroyed in an arson
attack by loyalist paramilitaries -- spends almost all of his
time working quietly behind the scenes with loyalist groups,
one of the most disenfranchised communities in Northern
Ireland. Loyalist paramilitaries represent the most radical
fringe of the unionist community, and Martin has taken on the
challenge of persuading them to end their violent activity
and enter the political process. Whereas Sinn Fein has used
its influence to bring republican paramilitaries into the
fold, the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland have held
loyalists at arms length in protest over their criminal
activity (e.g. drug smuggling), violent intra-community turf
wars, and attacks on Catholic nationalists.

5. (C) Martin McAleese's work with loyalists is
controversial, but he firmly believes in the value of Irish
outreach. Martin has brought loyalist groups to Dublin (a
first) to meet with Irish officials for private and honest
exchanges. His efforts have the support of Prime Minister
Bertie Ahern, who has also met with loyalist leaders.

Personal Information
--------------------

6. (SBU) President McAleese -- whose 53rd birthday is June
27, the day after President Bush meets with her -- is married
to Dr. Martin McAleese (an accountant and dentist). They
have three children. Emma, aged 22, just graduated from
university with a degree in electrical engineering and will
spend six weeks in the U.S. this summer working at NASA
headquarters in Washington. Sara and Justin are twins, aged
19; Justin is very interested in politics and hopes to attend
the Republican National Convention in New York in August.
President McAleese's professional background is in law and
journalism. She is a barrister and former Professor of Law.

7. (SBU) Although President McAleese has not confirmed her
intention to run for a second 7-year term this November, it
is likely that that she will, and that she will face little
serious opposition. Her approval ratings are in the high
80s/low 90s.
KENNY

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