Former diplomat defends Irish stance on Falklands war

Sat, Apr 14, 2012, 01:00

A FORMER leading diplomat has staunchly defended Ireland’s approach to dealing with the Falklands conflict in 1982.

Noel Dorr, Ireland’s ambassador to the UN at the time and subsequently head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said: “I don’t think I feel inclined to apologise for whatever efforts we made in our time to try to avert a war.”

Mr Dorr was speaking at a seminar “Ireland and the Falklands War” at Trinity College marking the 30th anniversary of the 12-week conflict when the Argentine dictatorship invaded the British archipelago in April 1982.

Mr Dorr highlighted the controversial Irish government statement issued on May 4th, 1982, in the wake of the sinking of the Argentine ship General Belgrano.

It sought an “immediate meeting” of the UN Security Council, of which Ireland was a temporary member, to prepare a new resolution for immediate cessation of hostilities.

Mr Dorr described the statement and its effects as the “greatest single controversy in Anglo-Irish relations for a decade”. It caused offence for failing to mention the British-sponsored UN Resolution 502, which called for the withdrawal of Argentine forces. The statement also came in the middle of negotiations, the day before both sides were to respond to proposals from the UN secretary general.

Mr Dorr said the statement was “clumsy” and “most unfortunate”. In an effort to repair the damage he put forward a new proposal.

“I suggested that phrase the ‘immediate meeting’ of the security council be replaced with ‘immediately seek a meeting’.”

He said: “We would immediately seek the meeting but the meeting wouldn’t be immediate. You may say that’s parsing on the head of a pin but then that’s the way wars are averted.”

Michael Lillis, head of the Department of Foreign Affairs Anglo-Irish division during the 1980s, reviewed Mr Dorr’s recent book about Ireland’s tenure as a member of the Security Council.

In the review Mr Lillis said in light of the damage done by Mr Haughey’s “Exocet” statement he believed Mr Dorr and then head of foreign affairs Sean Donlon should have “at a minimum” requested transfers to other duties.

However, Mr Dorr told the seminar he was not inclined to apologise for “whatever efforts we made to avert a war”.

Historian Prof Ronan Fanning told the seminar that Mr Haughey “ignored the embarrassment, humiliation and abuse visited upon the Irish in Britain as a result of his gratuitous and petulant tweaking of the British lion’s tail”.

He said Mr Haughey “betrayed” the politic tradition of Irish foreign policy “exemplified by his predecessors as taoisigh”, including Eamon de Valera, “who secretly did whatever he could to ensure Germany was defeated in the second World War”.