State papers: Officials warned of risk European leaders would snub Irish summit

Department expressed fears over use of private facilities for European Council meetings

The planned restoration of Dublin Castle led to concerns within government in 1985. Photograph: Google Maps

The planned restoration of Dublin Castle led to concerns within government in 1985. Photograph: Google Maps


Government officials feared foreign premiers would snub a European Council summit in Ireland almost 30 years ago if meetings were held in privately-owned buildings which had not been sealed off for at least six months.

Newly declassified documents, marked confidential, show the cabinet in May 1985 asked for a report to be drawn up on the feasibility of holding high-level talks in private facilities because of a planned restoration of Dublin Castle.

Later that month, the department of foreign affairs sent a brusque missive to the Office of Public Works – which has responsibility for State-owned properties – laying out in no uncertain terms objections to the proposals.

It was the department’s “considered and firm opinion that this option is totally impracticable insofar as meetings involving ministers and heads of state and government during our next EC presidency in 1990 are concerned”, warned a department official in the letter dated May 31st, 1985.

“The view is based on security, cost and operational considerations.”

The department said security problems associated with the use of private or commercial facilities as a venue for such meetings “cannot be overemphasised”.

“For security reasons Dublin Castle, as the venue of previous high-level EC presidency meetings, had to be closed to the public for the entire six months of our 1979 and 1984 presidencies,” the department official pointed out.

“This department is aware from recent contacts that at least two heads of government within the 10 will not, under any circumstances, contemplate using facilities for accommodation or meetings which have not been totally secured for a period of six months beforehand.

“Our planning for the 1990 presidency must include the assumption that they, and perhaps other senior political personalities, would not be prepared to attend a meeting of the European Council organised in a building such as a hotel to which there had been uncontrolled access in the previous six months.”

The official further notes that the costs of even occasional hire of private facilities for EC meetings would be “significant”.

“Whilst it is obviously impossible to give precise costings at this stage, the figure involved could be of the order of two million pounds,” the official said.