Cablegate: Sarkozy in Dublin -- In Listening Mode

DE RUEHDL #0433/01 2051353
P 231353Z JUL 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000433


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/23/2016

Classified By: DCM Robert J. Faucer. Reasons 1.4 (b/d).

1. Summary: On July 21, French President Nicolas Sarkozy
spent five hours in Dublin meeting with the Irish Prime
Minister Brian Cowen, the heads of the main opposition
parties, and a gathering of representatives from both the
pro- and anti-Lisbon Treaty camps. Cowen impressed upon
Sarkozy that it was unrealistic to think that Ireland would
hold another referendum this year or even prior to the June
2009 European Parliament (EP) election. Seeming to accept
this, Sarkozy later stated publicly that the crisis caused by
Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty referendum will not
be solved during the French EU Presidency. The leaders of
the opposition parties also stressed that a second referendum
would be impossible before the June 2009 EP elections.
Representatives at the "Yes/No" meeting appreciated Sarkozy's
effort to engage all interested parties but there is still a
pool of resentment lingering over Sarkozy's pre-visit
comments that the Irish must hold a second referendum. We do
not expect the Irish to propose a solution to this crisis
prior to the October European Council meeting. Further,
Sarkozy's visit is unlikely to have fully repaired the hit to
Irish-French relations brought on by his comments that many
here view as "meddling in Irish affairs." End summary.

Trying to Patch Things Up

2. (U) On July 21, during his brief visit to Dublin, Nicolas
Sarkozy, French (and European Council) President, admitted
that the crisis caused by Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon
Treaty referendum will not be solved during the French EU
Presidency. Sarkozy angered many in the Irish political
establishment by reportedly insisting shortly before his trip
that the Irish government hold a second referendum on the
Treaty. Sarkozy denied having said another referendum was
needed and instead maintained that he said that, "the Irish
had to be given the opportunity to give their opinion."

3. (C) The Office of the Taoiseach's (the Prime Minister)
Lorcan Fullam, who helped arrange Sarkozy's visit, told us
that the meeting between Cowen and Sarkozy was cordial and
that Sarkozy "did not bring a proposal to the Taoiseach" as
was widely reported in the press. Instead, he was very much
in listening mode. Fullam said that, based on this
discussion, Sarkozy "has a greater appreciation that a second
referendum this year is just not going to happen." He said
that holding a referendum even by June 2009 is unlikely.
Based on conversations the Irish government has had with its
EU partners, Fullam noted "a growing recognition in EU
capitals that a referendum, if one is held, will take place
after the EU Parliament elections in June 2009." Regarding
the next meeting between Cowen and Sarkozy in September in
Paris, Fullam said that "this was more than just an
opportunity to touch base; it will be a way for Cowen and
Sarkozy to shape the agenda of the October European Council

Meeting the Opposition

4. (C) Sarkozy followed his meeting with Cowen by having
short, separate meetings with the leaders of the two main
opposition parties -- Enda Kenny, head of Fine Gael (FG), and
Eamon Gilmore, Labor chief. According to press reports,
Kenny added that between now and October was a "period of
reflection and analysis." Sarkozy reportedly emphasized that
next June's Europe-wide elections imposes some time pressure
to resolve the issue. Both told Sarkozy that a second Lisbon
Treaty referendum before next June's elections is not
possible. Mark Kennelly, Kenny's chief of staff, told us
that FG was "quite happy" with the meeting and Sarkozy's trip
overall. He said that FG leaders believe Fall 2009 is the
most "realistic timetable if there were to be a second
referendum." Gilmore, who has led calls against a second
referendum, has told the Embassy separately that he fully
expects, and would support, holding a second referendum in
2009. He explained his public posture of opposition to a
second referendum as "politically necessary" for the time

Roundtable at the French Embassy

5. (C) After the meeting with the Irish opposition leaders,
Sarkozy went to the French Embassy for a roundtable
discussion with pro- and anti-Lisbon Treaty campaigners.
According to participants in the meeting, Sarkozy reiterated
his view that the Treaty crisis will not be solved during the
French EU Presidency. While a "casual and relaxed" Sarkozy
listened intently to the speakers, he did interrupt on
several occasions -- most notably when Libertas founder
Declan Ganley declared the Lisbon Treaty dead. Sinn Fein

DUBLIN 00000433 002 OF 002

President Gerry Adams followed this by stating that the
Treaty had been rejected by the people and a new version was
needed. Sarkozy was quick to refute some of these -- and
other -- allegations made by the "No" side. Pat Smith, a
representative of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), told
us bluntly that they used the occasion to call for Peter
Mandelson to be relieved of his duties as EU Trade
Commissioner because, as they claim, he is bringing in a bad
WTO deal for Irish farmers.

6. (C) One observer told us that almost all participants left
the meeting satisfied that they had their say. The one
exception was Sinn Fein, whose special representative to the
U.S. Rita O'Hare complained that her organization was the
only "staunch No camp supporter there." She maintained that
many parties did not have enough time (each was allotted
three minutes) to effectively communicate their message. In
general, she said that there is quite a bit of anger across
the political spectrum at the way Sarkozy handled his visit.


7. (C) Clearly, there is no appetite in Irish political
circles for another run at a referendum anytime soon. Based
on Sarkozy's comments focusing on the June 2009 elections and
Fullam's comments to us, this fact was undoubtedly
successfully impressed upon him. Cowen and Sarkozy will meet
in Paris in September ahead of the European Council meeting
in October to plot strategy, but it is unlikely the Irish
will have (or will be actively seeking) a solution in advance
of the October meeting. As for Irish-French relations,
Sarkozy appeared to be in damage control mode and -- thanks
to his "I'm-here-to-listen" attitude -- managed to leave with
more goodwill than when he arrived.

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