Ambassador’s view of leading Irish figures
US ambassador Margaret Heckler at Áras an Uachtaráin presenting her credentials to president Patrick Hillery. Photograph: Pat Langan
In July 1989, the new minister for foreign affairs Gerry Collins took US ambassador Margaret Heckler aside at his initial meeting with the diplomatic corps to express concern that the US might advise its citizens not to visit Ireland because of the IRA bombing of the Dublin-Belfast rail link, according to the cables.
“He argued that the situation did not merit such drastic action and urged in the strongest terms that we not issue an advisory,” wrote the ambassador to the secretary of state.
“It would grant the PIRA a major propaganda victory. It would have a long-term negative impact on investment in Northern Ireland which is critical to dry up PIRA’s recruiting poll among the unemployed.
“I promised Collins I would relay his views to Washington and that I would keep him informed of our deliberations.”
Ambassador Heckler added at the end of her cable: “Comment: From our perspective this situation would not yet seem to warrant a travel advisory or other public warning to the travelling public. In fact we tend to agree with the Irish that under the circumstances an advisory would be a substantial propaganda victory for the PIRA.”
In a cable the same month entitled “Ireland’s new Foreign Minister”, ambassador Heckler wrote that Collins was “reputedly a hard man to work for” but was also “astute” and “a professional” who had “worked to mend his fences with his British counterparts”.
“ . . . The expectation is that Collins will seek to develop with the new Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Brooke, the same excellent working relationship enjoyed by their predecessors, Brian Lenihan and Tom King. However, while Lenihan and King spoke the same language (and cracked jokes at the end of the working day over a couple of large whiskeys), the personalities of the two new men seem quite different. It remains to be seen whether contact will be made or sparks will fly when Brooke’s Oxbridge mannerisms run up against Collins’ bluff Irishness.”
In May 1989 Heckler sent a message to secretary of state James Baker about US-European relations based on a conversation she had with Peter Sutherland, who had been Ireland’s EU commissioner up to a few months earlier.
“During the course of a wide ranging discussion on US-EC relations at my residence May 2nd Peter kept coming back to his preoccupation about Germany. Preoccupations Peter maintained were shared [by] some members of the current EC Commission.
“Peter fears that current tensions between Bonn and London, and to a lesser extent Washington, on SNF could very well spill over into the economic relationship. In Peter’s view the Germans have been playing a key role in keeping French, Italian and others’ protectionist tendencies under control. This has been crucial to both the Uruguay round (world trade talks) and EC movement towards a single market.