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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05DUBLIN300
2005-03-10 14:44:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Dublin
Cable title:  

SCENE-SETTER FOR IRISH PRIME MINISTER AHERN'S

Tags:   PREL  PHUM  PGOV  ECON  EAIR 
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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 SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000300 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2015
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV ECON EAIR
SUBJECT: SCENE-SETTER FOR IRISH PRIME MINISTER AHERN'S
MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT -- ST. PATRICK'S DAY, 2005

Classified By: Ambassador James C. Kenny; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000300

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2015
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV ECON EAIR
SUBJECT: SCENE-SETTER FOR IRISH PRIME MINISTER AHERN'S
MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT -- ST. PATRICK'S DAY, 2005

Classified By: Ambassador James C. Kenny; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).


1. (C) Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Bertie Ahern will visit
the White House for the annual St. Patrick's Day events on
March 17 at a time of uncertainty in the Northern Ireland
peace process, but also at an opportune moment to advance
trans-Atlantic dialogue. Snowballing evidence of Sinn
Fein/IRA involvement in criminality has reshaped this year's
White House ceremonies and has complicated efforts by Ahern
and the British Government to keep the peace process alive.
The impasse in Northern Ireland, however, has by no means
overshadowed the Republic of Ireland's growing influence
within Europe -- as an economic pace-setter, as a role model
for the accession states, and as an effective diplomatic
broker. Dublin's influence makes Ahern an important
interlocutor on sustaining the positive momentum in U.S.-EU
relations created by the President's European trip. British
diplomats in Dublin have said that Ireland can be more of a
resource to the United States in its partnership with Europe.
Politically, the Taoiseach is focused on Ireland's elections
in 2007 and on an Irish "yes" vote for the EU Constitution.

Northern Ireland
--------------


2. (C) Near-certain IRA involvement in a December 26 Belfast
bank robbery, the January 30 murder of Belfast resident
Robert McCartney, and an alleged money-laundering scheme
uncovered on February 17-18 in the Republic of Ireland has
frozen the peace process at least until after the UK's May
Westminster elections. Ahern is committed to the process and
believes that Sinn Fein must be included. Along with Tony
Blair, however, he has cited IRA criminality and
intransigence on weapons decommissioning as the chief
obstacles to a deal, adding to a steady drumbeat of public
criticism that has put Sinn Fein/IRA on their heels. In a
significant shift, the GOI seems unwilling to leave
decommissioning and criminality to the final stages of a

deal, now seeing Sinn Fein/IRA good-faith actions on those
fronts as necessary before intensive negotiations resume. On
March 17, Ahern will likely say that USG engagement,
including tough messages on criminality, is essential in
moderating Sinn Fein behavior and advancing the prospects for
a deal.

The European Agenda
--------------


3. (C) The President's meeting with Ahern provides an
excellent opportunity to promote the Administration's agenda
with Europe. Ireland worked to repair strained U.S.-EU
relations during its 2004 EU presidency, hosted a successful
U.S.-EU Summit in June, and has since sought to maintain its
role as a diplomatic bridge between Washington and Brussels.
Recognizing Ireland's credentials in that role, the
Commission chose former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton as
the EU's Ambassador to the United States. Ireland provides a
moderating, mostly pro-U.S. voice in EU fora, especially on
large issues of trans-Atlantic cooperation. On individual
trade and foreign policy issues, however, the GOI has been
less helpful. Ireland is conscious of its small country
status and, in EU voting, tends to put its economic interests
first and to follow the EU consensus.

Irish Domestic Politics and Economics
--------------


4. (C) In European politics as in Irish politics, Ahern is
savvy. Earlier in 2004, his ruling Fianna Fail party
suffered from popular perceptions that it was out of touch
with social welfare concerns, despite having created
unprecedented wealth in Ireland. Ahern took steps to recast
the party as more socially conscious by reshuffling his
cabinet and reshaping the budget in favor of social spending.
These efforts have revived Fianna Fail's support, and Ahern
now seeks to consolidate the party's position in the run-up
to the 2007 general elections, which he hopes will deliver
his valedictory term as Prime Minister.


5. (U) Economically, there has never been a better time to
be Irish. After a slight dip following the global post-9/11
economic slowdown, Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy rebounded
in 2004, registering 5 percent real GDP growth to lead EU
Member States. One of Europe's poorest countries in the
1980s, Ireland now has the second highest GDP per capita in
the EU, behind Luxembourg. The Economist magazine also
recently named Ireland as the world's most livable country.
The Celtic Tiger economy has been fueled in large part by USD
55 billion in investment from U.S. firms, which employ over
90,000 Irish, mostly in the ICT, bio-pharmaceutical, and
financial services sectors. The employment and spillover
benefits provided by U.S. firms is now as positive a factor
in Irish perceptions of the United States as traditional ties
of kinship and culture.

Open Skies
--------------


6. (C) The Taoiseach would welcome the opportunity to
discuss with the President the Irish Cabinet's March 8
decision to pursue a bilateral Open Skies arrangement with
the United States -- effectively, a quiet deliverable for St.
Patrick's Day. The decision to enter into negotiations is a
big step for Ireland, which for years has maintained
protectionist elements in its civil aviation relationship
with the United States. The Cabinet decision will likely
expose Ireland to a legal challenge from the EU Commission,
which has received a mandate from the Member States to
negotiate on civil aviation with the United States on behalf
of the Community.

Other Issues of Note
--------------


7. (C) Based on our discussions with GOI sources, the
following are other issues that the Taoiseach might raise:

-- Africa/Development. Ireland has been involved in Africa
since the 19th century and endorses the UK's intention to
make Africa/development a key focus of its upcoming EU
presidency. The GOI, however, shares U.S. concerns about
novel UK proposals for development funding. On Darfur,
Ireland supports the EU position that human rights abuses
should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

-- The Middle East Peace Process (MEPP). Ireland, like
Europe, sees Mahmoud Abbas' election as the chance for a
fresh start in MEPP and expresses hope that Gaza will not be
Sharon's final stop on the Road Map. Foreign Minster Dermot
Ahern (no relation to the Prime Minister) plans to visit the
Middle East this spring to meet with representatives from
Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan.

-- Lebanon. Ahern will possibly have insights on
investigations into the murder of former Lebanese Prime
Minister Rafik Hariri, since Irish Deputy Police Commissioner
Peter Fitzgerald is leading the UN team conducting the
inquiry.

-- The UN. We expect the Taoiseach to raise UN reform with
the President, as Ireland believes that the USG is central to
reform efforts. Ireland views the UN as a cornerstone of its
foreign policy and is a long-time contributor to
UN-authorized peacekeeping missions. Ireland favors the
establishment of UN civilian rapid response units and is also
is considering a possible role in the proposed "EU
battlegroups," which would precede UN blue-helmets into
conflict regions. British diplomats in Dublin have suggested
that the USG work more closely with Ireland on human rights
in the UN, given Irish credibility on such issues.

-- Irish illegals. Ahern will want to discuss the
Administration's proposed changes to U.S. immigration laws,
which would offer scope for working, illegal residents to
legalize their status. The number of illegal Irish in the
United States is estimated at several thousand. Perceived
severity in the treatment of Irish illegals by U.S. law
enforcement officials has received sensationalized treatment
in the Irish press. Irish Parliamentarians also plan to
visit Congress to lobby on behalf of the proposed legislation.

-- Russia. Ahern might seek a read-out of the President's
discussion with Russian President Putin in Bratislava, since
the Taoiseach was tapped by EU colleagues to raise Russia
with President Bush during discussions in Brussels. Russia
is raising its profile in Ireland, with Russian entrepreneurs
pursuing Irish commercial opportunities.

-- EU referendum. The GOI has not yet set a date for a
referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty, which must
be ratified by all Member States by mid-2006. Having
shepherded the Constitution through negotiations during
Ireland's 2004 EU presidency, Ahern would be embarrassed to
see Irish voters cast a "no" vote, as happened in the first
referendum on the Nice Treaty.
KENNY