Cablegate: Northern Ireland - Irish Pm Tells Special Envoy

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

Monday, 26 July 2004, 07:22
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 001101
EO 12958 DECL: 07/07/2014
1. (C) Summary: U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Mitchell Reiss met on June 30 in Dublin with Irish Prime Minister Ahern and Foreign Minister Brian Cowen to review Irish/British efforts to lay the ground work for another effort at restoring devolved government in NI. Ahern confirmed that he and British PM Blair are prepared to host one last round of “hot house” negotiations with Sinn Fein (SF) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the middle of September at a remote site in Scotland on an agreement to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland (NI). If those talks fail, Ahern indicated that a “plan B” (along the lines suggested by the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP)) for standing up NI institutions with a caretaker technocratic government might be worth considering. Subsequently, however, key Irish officials told the Ambassador and DCM that the GOI does not wish to float any notions of a “plan B” in advance of September meetings. Ahern and Cowen both expressed concern that the traditional July-August summer holiday season may keep SF and DUP from adequately preparing for intensive negotiations in early September. Cowen will have staff here in August working on plans. End Summary
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2. (C) Attending with PM Ahern were XXXXXXXXXXXX, and XXXXXXXXXXXX. Accompanying Special Envoy Reiss were Ambassador Kenny, S/P Green, and Emboff. Ahern said that there must be a concerted effort in September to get a SF-DUP deal; “we can’t keep going the way we have been.” He agreed with Reiss’ observation that the key ingredients for an agreement are convincing the parties that September is a make-or-break situation, helping SF leader Gerry Adams do a deal, and getting DUP commitments on implementation (of the deal). Also, there must be a credible “plan B” in reserve. Ahern noted that SF now has the political power and position to move forward, “but I don’t know if they will.” Ahern said that he was impressed with the DUP, but its proposed six-month hiatus (between a deal and implementation) is a non-starter because republicans will not accept that long gap; and it brings events too close to UK elections and Blair’s upcoming (1/1/05) responsibilities as G-8 Chairman and EU President.
3. (C) Reiss agreed that DUP was showing an encouraging willingness to engage, adding that the parties can always negotiate an agreement in principle and a shorter timeframe for implementation, such as three months. The key is implementation because it is unrealistic to expect SF to “pay up front” with no guarantee of a deal. Ahern said the elements of a deal are clear, but it is important to keep all of the other parties involved as well. The last elections virtually eliminated the PUP and the Women’s Coalition; the Alliance Party is significantly weakened; and SDLP and the UUP could lose all their Westminster seats in the next general election (to SF and DUP).
4. (C) Ahern said SF and the DUP cannot be allowed to hold up the entire devolution process indefinitely. He noted that Blair,s October 2002 &Acts of Completion8 speech in Belfast failed spectacularly to bolster moderate unionism and the DUP continues to gain at UUP’s expense. The question is how to pressure the DUP to deal? Ahern said two points were certain: SF can’t be excluded from a deal, and it must be done within the parameters of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Without it, nationalist voters will walk away, and the NI public generally will grow more skeptical of devolution. For this reason, of the plan B proposals being circulated, the SDLP,s proposal or some variation &is not a bad one.8 (Note: SDLP recently proposed that the two governments (London and Dublin) nominate 10 administrators for the 10 government departments in order to get some form of devolved government up and running. End note.)
5. (C) Reiss said the U.S. agreed there are merits to the SDLP,s proposal. Moreover, the threat of a viable plan B might be a useful inducement to get the parties to deal in September. Reiss asked what Dublin and London were doing to prepare the ground for September and offered to send Ahern some thoughts on this soon. Ahern said there were better prospects for success in September if the parties were working off one text that ring-fenced areas of agreement and bracketed the major remaining unresolved issues: fulfilling commitments under the Joint Declaration, the Finucane inquiry, On The Runs (OTRs), and release of the murderers of Garda Gerry McCabe. Reiss asked whether the Finucane case was a potential deal breaker. Ahern said it is not a republican, but a nationalist, issue. Because there is such broad-based support across the nationalist community in the North for an inquiry, SF will insist on it. Ahern added that the results of a Finucane inquiry report tomorrow would not surprise anyone and “Tony (Blair) knows what he has to do.” (Comment: Presumably, that the PM will have to overrule elements of the security-legal establishments to see that some form of public inquiry is held. End comment.)
6. (C) Taioseach advisor XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that SF knows there can be no deal without decommissioning - “everyone knows what needs to be done.” Ahern added that another secret decommissioning act will not work; SF must understand that without transparency it will get no credit from DUP leader Paisley. Ahern noted that a clergyman in contact with Adams XXXXXXXXXXXX might act as a witness. His participation might be seen by unionists as lending credibility. Ahern said that the way to get SF on the policing boards is a deal that devolves policing/justice relatively quickly in exchange for an end to paramilitary activity and complete decommissioning. But, he added, DUP does not yet understand this. Reiss said that he would reinforce this when he met with DUP leaders on July 28.
7. (C) Reiss subsequently met with Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, who was accompanied by XXXXXXXXXXXX. Cowen said that, even though DUP leader Paisley wants to do a deal, the main worry going into the September talks is that the parties will delay an agreement to get a better deal: “this is why we discuss plan Bs.” Cowen added that, nonetheless, the GOI is going into September “with all guns blazing.” Reiss asked what will the market bear in terms of pain to the parties. That is, he suggested that the parties discuss a plan B publicly and privately to pressure both the DUP and SF. Reiss added that SF-DUP dialogue over the next two months approaching September is critical and asked whether a &stick and carrot8 approach to Sinn Fein (SF) might be adopted and result in forward motion. XXXXXXXXXXXX cautioned that it is difficult to find a stick that won’t alienate SF and destabilize/set back the entire process. Cowen reiterated PM Ahern’s endorsement that talks in September focus around a bracketed text.
8. (C) Cowen said that the key factor at present is the DUP willingness to pre-cook a deal. This should allow SF to seriously engage, get an agreement, and then proceed with sequencing. In terms of offering a carrot, XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested that the DUP needs to feel &flattered.8 He noted that party members are visiting the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard during the month of July, and it may be opportune to invite them to Washington for consultations and to drive home the message that the opportunity for a deal is there. Cowen said that the DUP must understand that changes on Strand One of the GFA would need to be offset by changes to Strand Two. He added that the issue of First Minister and Deputy First Minister must be resolved sooner rather than later. On decommissioning, Cowen suggested that one way to get transparency without breaching confidentiality would be to publish retrospectively the index listing a full inventory of guns and explosives following total decommissioning.
9. (C) Reiss asked how firm was the DUP’s demand for a six-month &decontamination8 period prior to SF taking seats at the Executive table. Cowen replied that 6 months is a negotiating position, and “in fairness” DUP is ready to do a “big bang” deal now. Cowen noted that the devolution of justice is a critical issue for SF, and Finucane is a potential deal breaker -- it is a &hot button topic8 that is not going to go away. KENNY

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