Opposition to Reagan’s visit made little impact in White House

Protests over Central America and nuclear weapons dubbed part of ‘democratic process’

Seán Donlon, Irish ambassador to the US during US president Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ireland in 1984. Photograph: Frank Miller

Seán Donlon, Irish ambassador to the US during US president Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ireland in 1984. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The opposition in Ireland to US president Ronald Reagan’s visit in 1984 made little impact in the White House, documents from the Department of Foreign Affairs file show.

Mr Reagan was pleased with “good file footage illustrating the friendship and respect in which he is held abroad”, according to a telex sent by the Irish ambassador to the US, Seán Donlon, to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

People opposing the Reagan visit were critical of his foreign policy in Central America and his approach to nuclear weapons. More than 500 protesters marched to Shannon Airport on the day he arrived.

In his telex dated July 9th, a month after the visit, Mr Donlon said it was “universally regarded by the president and his advisers as having been an outstanding success”. “The president himself describes it as an ‘absolutely wonderful trip’,” he wrote. It succeeded in all its objectives, which included underlining Mr Reagan’s identification with Ireland and providing “a relaxed stopover” on his way to a summit meeting in London, he said. “The White House is in no way concerned about the demonstrations or about critical letters from the public,” Mr Donlon said.

“These are regarded as expressions of the operation of the democratic process and are encountered as frequently during the president’s travels in the US as they were during his trip to Ireland.”

The note also said minister for foreign affairs Peter Barry’s “apology in the Dáil” following a “flag-burning incident” was “appreciated”, although the flag-burning was regarded as having “no great importance”.