Cablegate: (C) Northern Ireland: Uk and Irish to Hold Talks

Published: Thu 14 Oct 2004 04:20 PM
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 001566
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/14/2014
Classified By: Charge Jon Benton for reasons 1.4 b and d
1. (C) The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs confirms
that proximity talks with the DUP and Sinn Fein will begin
Friday October 15 in London. Senior officials from the two
governments will shuttle between Sinn Fein and DUP
representatives. The Irish government wants to keep this out
of the press and believe they can, given that Gerry Adams has
a separate reason for being in London. The Irish say it is
time for both parties to show what is on offer, and then to
see if they can come to terms on a comprehensive package,
including modalities of decommissioning, DUP commitments on
devolution and policing, and the issues surrounding how the
institutions would work. Substance would be agreed
first,then sequencing and a time line. Irish officials
believe the elements of a deal are achievable, but caution
that it always comes down to political will.
2. (C) Sinn Fein officials in Dublin have told us they are
optimistic about the London talks, and cite one basis of
their optimism to be a comment FM Ahern made to the press, to
the effect that it is "only a matter of time" before Sinn
Fein is in government in the south (see transcript, para 3).
Sinn Fein has long wanted such a statement, arguing that the
Irish government is not in a position to put pressure on DUP
to work with Sinn Fein if it continues to say Sinn Fein
cannot be in government in the Republic. DFA officials say,
however, that there was nothing planned about the foreign
minister's remarks. Rather, he responded to a question from
the press in the same way he always responded before becoming
foreign minister, and in a way consistent with longstanding
Irish policy. Indeed, the day after Ahern's statement, the
government emphasized that paramilitarism must end,
decommissioning of weapons must take place, and private
armies eliminated before Fianna Fail (the largest party in
government) would review its current opposition to Sinn
Fein's participation in government. Education minister
Hanafin added that Sinn Fein had "a long, long way to go."
These statements aim to calm the Progressive Democrats, the
junior party in the government coalition. Privately, some
Fianna Fail party members have told embassy that they are the
last party that would ever form a government with Sinn Fein.
Opposition parties, predictably, are making hay out of the
foreign minister's remarks.
3. (SBU) Remarks by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot
Ahern, October 12
Journalist: "Minister Ahern, if the question of IRA weapons
is sorted conclusively, definitively, if the DUP are asked to
accept Sinn Fein as potential coalition partners (in Northern
Ireland), what does that say about Fianna Fail's attitude
about Sinn Fein down South? Will there be a change in those
circumstances as well?"
Minister Ahern: "Well we have a particular stance as you
know well but obviously if the circumstances change, the view
in relation to SF going into government will change and I
believe it is a matter of time, it is only a matter of time
that SF will be in government in the future. But until such
time as the IRA demonstrably show that they have put down
arms forever and a day, there cannot be two armies. That the
reality and it's the same in the north as it is in the
republic....Obviously, circumstances will change. There will
come a time, I envisage, where Sinn Fein will be in
government in the repbulic as they will be in the north and I
hope that happens in the future."
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