Cablegate: Ireland/Cuba: Upcoming Ministerial Visit And

DE RUEHDL #0707/01 3650729
R 300729Z DEC 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000707


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2018

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, Robert J. Faucher: Reasons 1.4 (b) an
d (d).

1. (C) Summary. Ireland's Foreign Minister publicly
announced plans for an official visit to Cuba in
mid-February, a first for any Irish Minister. He also
signaled Ireland's willingness to accept Guantanamo detainees
as part of an EU response to any plan to close Guantanamo
proposed by the incoming U.S. administration. EU Foreign
Ministers will discuss the EU approach at their January 8,
2009, informal meeting in Prague. Once an EU position is
adopted, Ireland would likely accept up to five detainees at
most. End Summary.


2. (U) Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin announced to the
press December 28 that he will visit Cuba in mid-February
2009. Martin will be the first Irish Minister ever to visit
Cuba in an official capacity.

3. (C) Irish Department of Foreign Affairs America's Director
Darach MacFhionnbhairr told the Embassy December 29 that
Martin's visit comes in the context of the recent EU decision
to lift diplomatic sanctions following the 2003 crackdown on
dissidents on the island. MacFhoinbhairr added that "Martin
will follow standard EU policy on Cuba" during the visit,
which is intended to send a signal of encouragement to the
Cuban government to "move on." Martin has not yet approved a
program for the one-and-a-half day visit, but he is likely to
meet with Raul Castro. No decision has been taken yet on
whether he would meet with dissidents while in Cuba,
according to MacFhoinbhairr. Martin will travel to Cuba
during the week of February 16; he will also spend two days
on an official visit to Mexico as part of this trip.


4. (U) Martin also told the press on December 28 that Ireland
will consider accepting detainees from the U.S. facility at
Guantanamo. He highlighted that the Irish cabinet still had
to take a decision and that any potential detainees would be
carefully screened. Martin stressed, however, that accepting
detainees was a logical follow-up from Ireland's call for the
facility to be closed: "If we're against the torture and the
nature of what went on at Guantanamo, and there are concerns
in terms of international human rights and humanitarian law,
there's a logical follow-through on that." Martin added that
Ireland would only accept those detainees with no terrorist

5. (C) MacFhoinbhairr claimed to be surprised by Martin's
Guantanamo statements and stressed that there was no link
between Martin's upcoming Cuba visit and his public position
about accepting Guantanamo detainees. MacFhoinbhairr noted
that it was still unsettled whether Ireland would accept any
Guantanamo detainees, with Justice Minister Dermot Ahern
leading the nay-sayers (closely supported by departing
Foreign Affairs Secretary General Dermot Gallagher and
Justice Secretary General Sean Aylward). In early December,
in response to a planted question in the Irish Parliament,
Justice Minister Ahern stated that Ireland had no intention
to accept any Guantanamo detainees.

6. (C) MacFhoinbhairr told the Embassy that EU Minsters
would take up the issue of Guantanamo detainees at their
January 8 Gymnich meeting in Prague. Ireland hoped that the
Gymnich will decide an EU-wide approach to Guantanamo that
can be rolled out "in response to a proposed closure plan
from the new U.S. administration" a few weeks later. (Note:
No formal EU decisions can be adopted at a Gymnich meeting
but they can be tee'd up for adoption at the next EU Council
meeting. End note.)

7. (C) MacFhoinbhairr commented that, although Portugal
tried to get a leg up in the matter via its December 11
letter from Foreign Minister Amado, Germany remains the key
to achieving a common EU position. MacFhoinbhairr reported
that Denmark and Austria lead EU Member States opposed to an
EU plan. He suggested that internal divisions in Germany
have prevented Germany from pushing a more forward leaning
stance, leading sometimes to mixed signals: when Cowen met
with Merkel earlier in December, for example, she did not
raise the issue, to Cowen's surprise.


8. (C) Martin's press announcement on Guantanamo should be
seen in the context of the internal Irish government debate,

DUBLIN 00000707 002 OF 002

which Martin hopes to turn to his favor. If Ireland
determines that it will accept Guantanamo detainees, based on
earlier conversations with Irish officials, we should expect
that Ireland would accept no more that five detainees for

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