Cablegate: Tour D'horizon with Irish Foreign Minister

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DUBLIN 000916



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2017



Classified By: Ambassador Thomas C. Foley; Reasons 1.4
(B) and (D).


1. (C) Ambassador Foley met with Irish Foreign Minister
Dermot Ahern on December 19 to discuss a wide range of
issues. In recent days, Ahern has tamped down the public
reaction to a report of the Irish Human Rights Commission
(IHRC) on extraordinary renditions. Ahern indicated that the
3500-strong EU peacekeeping force for Eastern Chad, led by
Irish Lt. General Pat Nash and including 450 Irish troops,
will be deployed in January or February 2008. He stated that
Ireland, the Framework Nation in Kosovo, intends to remain in
Kosovo on the basis of the pre-December 10 mandate and plans
to contribute to the planned EU ESDP police mission there.
Ahern revealed that the Department of Foreign Affairs
Conflict Resolution Unit will tackle East Timor as its first
venture into international conflict resolution intervention.
Regarding the EU Reform Treaty, Ahern predicted that there
will be a tough battle to get out sufficient "yes" votes. He
predicted that the recently proposed DHS full pre-clearance
agreement with Ireland will be substantially altered by the
Irish Attorney General. The Ambassador thanked Ahern for
accepting ten Cuban refugees currently encamped at
Guantanamo. Ahern advised the Ambassador that the Department
should liaise with Ambassador Michael Collins in planning the
2008 St. Patrick's Day bilateral. He once again raised the
Irish Government's concern about the status of Irish illegal
aliens in the U.S. Ahern's warm, open welcome of the
Ambassador is a measure of the importance the Irish attach to
the bilateral relationship with the U.S. End summary.

Extraordinary Renditions

2. (C) Ambassador Foley thanked Ahern for his staunch
rejection of the Irish Human Rights Commission's (IHRC)
demand that the Irish Government inspect aircraft landing in
Ireland that are alleged to have been involved in so-called
extraordinary rendition flights (Ref B). Ahern declared that
the IHRC report contained no new information, but warned that
opposition parties Fine Gael and Labour could be expected to
continue to raise the issue from time to time in efforts to
politically embarrass the Fianna Fail-run Government. Ahern
said that several alleged rendition flights had been
inspected during the past year and fully cleared; the last
flight, he wryly noted, was carrying six touring golfers.
Ahern said that a public response by the Embassy would not be
useful, but suggested that the Ambassador personally engage
Fine Gael leadership to explain the U.S. position.

3. (C) Ahern noted that he had "put his neck on the chopping
block" and would pay a severe political price if it ever
turned out that rendition flights had entered Ireland or if
one was discovered in the future. He stated that he "could
use a little more information" about the flights, musing that
it might not be a bad idea to allow the random inspection of
a few planes to proceed, which would provide cover if a
rendition flight ever surfaced. He seemed quite convinced
that at least three flights involving renditions had refueled
at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions

4. (C) Comment: While Ahern's public stance on
extraordinary renditions is rock-solid, his musings during
the meeting seemed less assured. This was the only issue
during the meeting that agitated him; he spent considerable
time dwelling on it. Ahern seemed to be fishing for renewed
assurances from the Ambassador that no rendition flights have
transited Ireland, or would transit in the future.
Highlighting the recent attention drawn to renditions by the
IHRC report, later the same day the Parliamentary Foreign
Affairs Committee held a hearing on the matter. The hearing,
attended by POLOFFs, generally confirmed the Government's
view that there is no evidence that rendition flights have
transited Ireland. The hearing, which was barely reported by
the press, failed to achieve any traction for critics of
American policy. End comment.


5. (C) In November, Ahern visited Chad in preparation for

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the deployment of a 3500-strong EU peacekeeping force, led by
Irish Lt. General Pat Nash and including 450 Irish troops.
Ahern, who also visited Darfur in 2006, indicated that the
situation in Eastern Chad is not as dire as Darfur, but that
conditions are deteriorating. He said that the Government of
Chad, unlike the Government of Sudan, is reasonably positive
about the intervention of the EU force. He stated that force
equipment requirements, which have somewhat delayed the
mission, have been sorted out and that force deployment would
begin in January or February 2008.

6. (C) In an aside on Sudan, Ahern expressed despondency
about progress in Darfur, saying that he didn't believe the
leaders of Sudan, including President al-Bashir, were serious
about resolving the Darfur situation. He labeled al-Bashir
and Sudanese Foreign Minister Ismail as untrustworthy, saying
they had both lied to him. He described Khartoum as booming
and al-Bashir as scoffing at Western sanctions. "The Chinese
are everywhere in Khartoum," he said.


7. (C) Ahern said that Ireland intends to remain in Kosovo
under the pre-December 10 mandate. (Note: Ireland is the
Framework Nation in Kosovo, responsible for commanding,
controlling, and directing operations of the multilateral
peacekeeping force (KFOR) operating there. End note.)
Ireland also intends to contribute to the EU ESDP police
force recently authorized for Kosovo, according to Ahern.
While Ireland is worried about the repercussions of a
unilateral declaration of independence in Kosovo, Ahern
indicated that he sees independence there as inevitable. If
the EU decides to recognize an independent Kosovo, he said,
Ireland will go along (Ref D).

8. (C) In a separate discussion on December 20 with Jim
Kelly, Director, Europe Division, Department of Foreign
Affairs, Kelly told POLOFF that assessments of the legality
of continuing the pre-December 10 mandate had been positive.
He indicated that the door was now open for UN Secretary
General Ban to signal a green light for the ESDP policing
mission. Kelly commented on meetings that Minister of
Foreign Affairs Ahern and he had held about November 9 in
Kosovo and Serbia with Kosovar Prime Minister-elect Hashim
Thaci and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Kelly
characterized both leaders as wary of precipitous action. In
spite of Thaci's public rhetoric, Kelly noted that Thaci was
privately talking about "managed" independence rather than a
"unilateral declaration" of independence. Similarly, Kelly
said that Kostunica indicated he was not willing to use
military force to retain Kosovo, though Kostunica said he
would utilize any measure short of military action, including
an economic blockade.

Conflict Resolution Unit (CRU)

9. (C) Ahern revealed that the Government has decided to
focus the efforts of the newly formed CRU, which is housed in
the Department of Foreign Affairs, on East Timor. He
indicated that the Government of East Timor is favorably
disposed to the intervention, in part because of good
relations built up with Timorese Government officials during
Irish troop engagements in the past. Ahern reiterated that
he would welcome collaborative Irish/U.S. conflict resolution
initiatives there. (Comment: Ahern will lead a team to Dili
in February or March 2008. Embassy Dublin will liaise with
Embassy Dili to arrange meetings for Ahern with Ambassador
Klemm and other U.S. officials. End comment.)

Reform Treaty Referendum

10. (C) Emphasizing that the Government of Ireland is
calling the EU treaty the "Reform" Treaty rather than the
"Lisbon" Treaty, Ahern indicated that the constitutionally
mandated referendum would likely be held during the first
half of 2008 and would be linked with a referendum on a
constitutional amendment on children's rights (Ref E). He
predicted a hard battle, which, he said, would be joined by
treaty opponents from across Europe. He said that in spite
of the fact that the Irish people are generally supportive of
the EU and the Reform Treaty, getting out the "yes" vote
might be a problem.

Pre-Clearance Agreement

11. (C) Ahern indicated that he had reviewed the draft DHS
agreement to establish a full U.S. pre-clearance facility in

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Ireland (Ref C). He was generally supportive of the proposed
agreement, calling it "significant and practical."
Nonetheless, he was skeptical of certain provisions, e.g.,
that Ireland would be responsible for any radioactive waste
discovered, and predicted that the draft agreement would be
much altered after the Irish Attorney General reviewed the

Cuban Refugees

12. (C) Ambassador Foley thanked Ahern for the Irish
Government's willingness to accept ten Cuban refugees
currently encamped at Guantanamo. (Note: A team from the
Irish Ministry of Justice visited Guantanamo the week of
December 10 and identified the refugees who will be settled
in Ireland. End note.) Ahern's view of the post-Castro
future of Cuba was uncertain; he indicated that Ireland would
be guided by the EU on future relations with the Cuban

St. Patrick's Day Bilateral

13. (U) Ahern advised the Ambassador that he and the
Department should liaise with Ambassador Michael Collins in
Washington in planning the 2008 St. Patrick's Day bilateral.
While Ahern agreed that, in light of the progress in Northern
Ireland, the format of the bilateral could be somewhat
revised (such as the stations of the cross), he noted that
the shamrock ceremony, which has a long tradition, should not
be altered.

Undocumented Irish

14. (C) Ahern once again raised the Irish Government's
concern about the status of Irish illegal aliens in the U.S.
(Ref A). He said that political opponents are accusing the
Government of ignoring the problem, when, in fact, there is
nothing the Government can do influence U.S. immigration
policy. He asked the Ambassador to meet separately with
opposition leaders to explain the U.S. Government's position.


15. (C) Ahern genuinely welcomed the Ambassador. He
appeared engaged, warm, and open, acting as if he had all the
time in the world. Such demeanor is a measure of the
importance the Irish attach to the bilateral relationship
with the U.S.

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