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05DUBLIN143 2005-02-04 16:06:00 SECRET Embassy Dublin
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					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 DUBLIN 000143 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2015

Classified By: AMB JAMES C. KENNY

1. (S) SUMMARY: Amb Kenny met February 4 with Michael
Collins, second Secretary General to PM Ahern, and Ahern's
senior advisor on Northern Ireland. The ambassador indicated
that the USG is inclined not to invite Northern Ireland
political parties to the March 17 White House event. Collins
said the GOI believes engagement with Sinn Fein is better
than exclusion, and asked if the USG would be willing to
defer a decision in case the environment improves. Collins
said the GOI strategy regarding the peace process was to "sit
tight" and let Sinn Fein find its way back in, following
strong messages from the GOI and UK to Sinn Fein leaders.
However, Collins said the second IRA statement made the
situation worse. He said the GOI considered the February 3
IRA statement "ominous" and was "unnerved" by it. In
response to the ambassador's request for more information on
the bank robbery, Collins said the GOI information came
mostly from the UK and from PSNI-Garda contacts, a point
reinforced later on February 4 in a telephone conversation
from Sean Aylward, Secretary General of DOJ. Aylward added
that the GOI has a "very strong view" that Sinn Fein should
not be excluded from the United States, which he wishes to
discuss in person with the Ambassador at their scheduled
February 8 meeting. (Note: Aylward did not specify on the
phone whether he was expressing a general view on visas for
Sinn Fein or a specific view on March 17 events.) Separately
this week, POL/ECON chief met with political figures active
in the peace process, all of whom echoed some of Michael
Collins' concerns: uncertainty over whether Sinn Fein is
serious about peace, whether it can bring the IRA along or
would be willing to break from the IRA, and uncertainty over
whether Sinn Fein is in full control of the IRA.
Interlocutors also commented on the domestic political
implications of the current impasse. DCM and POL/ECON Chief
also attended the meeting with Collins. End Summary.

March 17


2. (S) On February 4, Ambassador Kenny briefed Michael
Collins on current USG thinking about the March 17 events,
emphasizing that the most important aspect of the occasion is
the President's meeting with the Taoiseach (PM Ahern). He
told Collins that the USG at this point is inclined not to
invite any of the Northern Ireland parties to the White House
but instead to honor civic leaders. When asked for GOI
views, Collins said that it was of course a USG decision to
make but it was a decision that would have ramifications in
Ireland. He said that the situation is "tense" and the GOI
does not want it to worsen. The GOI feels that engagement
with Sinn Fein is better than exclusion. Noting that the
situation is fluid, he said that the Taoiseach would prefer
that no decision be made, yet, on White House participation.
Collins seemed especially concerned that no decision be
announced next week, given that the week will already be
highly charged because of the release of the International
Independent Monitoring Commission's report on the Northern
Bank robbery. The discussion then turned to Sinn Fein's visa
requests for events in the U.S. around St. Patrick's Day,
apart from the White House. Collins reiterated the GOI's
strong view that giving Sinn Fein visas to the U.S. helps the
peace process.

IRA Statements of February 2 and 3


3. (C) Collins said that the long IRA statement of February
2 had not worried the GOI because it seemed natural for the
IRA to take its decommissioning offer off the table given the
abeyance in the peace process. However, he said the February
3 statement had caught them by surprise. Collins said the GOI
believed the two statements were written by different
drafters. The February 3 statement, he said, looked like the
style of the Chief of Staff of the IRA. He called the
statement "ominous" and said it had left GOI officials
"unnerved and anxious." He then referred to Sinn Fein's
Martin McGuinness' claim of also having no prior knowledge of
the statement. He said that if McGuinness genuinely did not
know in advance that the IRA would issue a second statement
February 3, that could signal that Sinn Fein is genuinely
breaking from the IRA. While that might indicate Sinn Fein's
seriousness about pursuing peace, it would raise other
issues. Was Sinn Fein losing control over the IRA? If Sinn
Fein no longer can or will serve as a conduit to the IRA, who
will? Collins then noted that McGuinness did not repudiate
the IRA statement, which he implied would tend to indicate no
change in Sinn Fein's relationship with the IRA.

4. (C) Comment: Michael Collins' uncertainty about Sinn
Fein's intentions and Sinn Fein's control over the IRA were
echoed in comments across the political spectrum this week,
including in conversations with Senator Martin Mansergh,
former government advisor on Northern Ireland; staff from the
Glencree Center for reconciliation; and a Fianna Fail
political advisor. That Michael Collins and others so long
and deeply engaged in the peace process would be so uncertain
of Sinn Fein's intentions is not a good omen for the peace
process. It indicates the degree to which the bank robbery
destroyed the government's trust in Sinn Fein. Meanwhile,
uncertainty about Sinn Fein's interest in peace or control
over the IRA, combined with the IRA's February 3 statement,
clearly has officials worried. The government steadfastly
holds onto engagement with Sinn Fein because it sees no other
alternative. End Comment

Peace Process


5. (C) Michael Collins said that the GOI's approach to the
peace process was to "sit tight" and let Sinn Fein find its
way back. Equally, the GOI will stay engaged with Sinn Fein,
including a February 4 meeting between FM Dermott Ahern and
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator. Collins
said that until the bank robbery, there was every expectation
that a comprehensive agreement would be reached. He said the
two outstanding issues, decommissioning and criminality, had
been considered resolvable until the bank robbery -- which he
termed a "tragedy that stopped everything." Senator Martin
Mansergh, who remains influential in the peace process and
close to the Taoiseach, was more expansive. He said that
Sinn Fein must get the message to draw a line under
paramilitarism and criminality. Echoing what we have also
heard from DFA, Mansergh said that since the robbery, there
is no longer any willingness to accept Sinn Fein's argument
that it needs time to bring the IRA along. Like other
contacts, Mansergh said that ten years is long enough and
this time, all around talks can only begin on the basis of
the IRA winding up. Neither Mansergh nor any government
official has yet defined what they would need from Sinn Fein.
They say that they will not again work on a comprehensive
package only to have it fall apart at the end because of the
IRA yet also say they would not expect decommissioning and a
cessation of criminality to be a pre-requisite to all party

GOI Information on the Northern Bank Robbery


6. (S) Collins said that the GOI's judgment on the robbery
was based almost exclusively on UK intelligence. He also
said that intelligence is handled very differently in the
British and Irish governments. In the Irish government, many
officials, including himself, do not receive any intelligence
reports. The tradition instead is to take the word of the
Garda. Later on February 4, at Michael Collins' request,
Sean Aylward, DOJ Secretary General called the ambassador.
Aylward said that he would be more precise with the
Ambassador during their scheduled February 8 meeting, but
confirmed that UK and PSNI information, combined with
Ireland's long experience with the IRA, was the basis for the
GOI assessment that IRA was behind the robbery. He said the
GOI has no smoking gun or hard evidence but that the GOI
considered it 99% certain that IRA conducted the robbery.
Among several reasons, he said that no group other than IRA
could have entered the neighborhood in which the bank manager
lived. He described it as a "no go" area for the PSNI and
splinter groups. He also said no other group would have the
discipline, this many weeks after the robbery, not to try to
use a bank note, or provide information on the van or any
other aspect of the robbery. He said that the GOI does have
"rock solid evidence" that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness
are members of the IRA military command and for that reason,
the Taoiseach is certain they would have known in advance of
the robbery.

Domestic Implications


7. (C) The GOI's all-out verbal offensive against Sinn Fein
has tongues wagging about domestic politics. Martin Mansergh
volunteered that as much as the Taoiseach is thinking about
the 2007 elections, he values the peace process more and
would sacrifice political gain if he thought peace would be
advanced. Mansergh told POL/ECON chief that the bank robbery
has damaged Sinn Fein in the Republic. While not yet
reflected in poll numbers, Mansergh and other political
operatives, believe (or hope) that some Sinn Fein voters will
go elsewhere now that it is clear that Sinn Fein can not
become part of any government in the Republic as long as IRA
activity continues. On radio, Mansergh made the point more
colorfully: "The truth is that Sinn Fein, regardless of extra
seats they might or mightn't win, wouldn't come within an
asses' roar of power north or south of the Border until the
IRA is off the pitch."

8. (C) Another idea sporadically under consideration is that
Fianna Fail could start competing in elections in Northern
Ireland. The argument is that Fianna Fail's best way of
confronting Sinn Fein in the Republic is to become an
all-island party. Some think doing so could also give
nationalists in the north an alternative to Sinn Fein, given
the SDLP's waning fortunes. Mansergh did not see this as a
short term prospect, in part because the SDLP has not yet
indicated an interest in merging with Fianna Fail. Derek
Mooney, Fianna Fail's political advisor to the Defense
Minister, says the opposite. He said the bank robbery is
rapidly changing the prospective and it is the right time for
Fianna Fail to move north. He noted that most of SDLP's
former voters are not voting at all, and only a small
percentage shifted to Sinn Fein. This, he said, leaves space
for a nationalist party with a vision for the future, a space
Mooney thinks SDLP will never re-gain because it is seen only
as a peace process party. Mooney said Fianna Fail took a
significant step in November 2004 when it changed its rules,
allowing full membership for people not resident in the
Republic. The rules also allow a person to be a member of
both Fianna Fail and SDLP. Mooney provides campaign advice
to SDLP.