UK considered trying to stop Reagan visit to Ireland

Papers from 1984 show Westminster feared US president would yield to pressure and comment on Northern Ireland

Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy in the Ronald Reagan pub in Ballyporeen, Co Tippeary. Photograph: Pat Langan

Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy in the Ronald Reagan pub in Ballyporeen, Co Tippeary. Photograph: Pat Langan

Fri, Jan 3, 2014, 01:00

The British government considered intervening to prevent then US president Ronald Reagan’s scheduled visit to Ireland in June 1984, when he returned to his ancestral home of Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary.

Officials were concerned about the potential impact this might have on the Northern Ireland local elections, particularly if the president yielded to pressure from the Irish-American lobby to comment on Northern Ireland, or if the Irish government sought to co-opt him in support of the recently published New Ireland Forum report.

In December 1983, they weighed up whether or not to use their good relationship with the White House to caution against the visit.

However, it was decided that this would appear as “unnecessarily defensive” and that the Irish government would be bound to hear about it. In any case, the White House pledged to discuss their preparations and briefings for the visit with the British.

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