164. Memorandum of Conversation1



  • The Secretary’s Bilateral Talk with Minister for External Affairs Hillery—Northern Ireland


  • U.S.
  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Yost
  • AsstSecy Hillenbrand
  • Mr. Thompson, SecDel
  • Irish
  • MinExtAff Hillery
  • SecExtAff McCann
  • Ambassador Cremin (UN)

The Secretary’s meeting with the Irish Minister for External Affairs was carried on in a most relaxed atmosphere. Dr. Hillery made it clear that he had no burning issue to raise with the Secretary. After the Secretary said how sorry he had been to learn of the death of Ambassador Fay,2 his good friend and golfing partner, Dr. Hillery began a low-key presentation on Northern Ireland. He said Ireland had a right to have some say about settling the unrest in Northern Ireland. The British have made it clear at the General Assembly that they feel the situation in North Ireland is an internal matter.

The Irish Government believes the problem cannot be solved by treating it simply as a domestic political problem; it is one tragic aspect of several hundred years of Irish history. There are obviously strong feelings involved. The earlier political solution for Northern Ireland has now broken down, Hillery claimed. The parties must search for a new solution which can prove to be acceptable in time . . . and only time will allow for such a new solution to be worked out.

Dr. Hillery observed that the Northern Ireland question had not yet been put on the agenda of the General Assembly. Even if his delega[Page 592]tion had managed to get the item listed, Hillery said he was not sure how far this would have advanced the Irish case.

The Secretary asked what advantage then the Minister saw in having brought the Northern Ireland question to the UN. Dr. Hillery answered that the Irish Government’s aim had been to get the British to live up to the expectations of world opinion in a hearing before the world forum. He felt that his trip to the UN had had some “good effect” in this regard.

The Secretary asked Hillery what his future plans were. Dr. Hillery replied, “To keep trying to get the British to talk on this matter.” He characterized the dilemma for the British as either letting the matter lie—and having trouble—or making a decision (on a new solution for Northern Ireland?)—and still having trouble.

The Secretary said that we did not wish to interfere in problems between our good friends. It would be presumptuous of us, with all our unsolved problems, to give advice to the parties to this conflict. There was no doubt, he assured Hillery, in the minds of the British that the United States hopes this problem will be dealt with. The Secretary told Hillery he should feel free to get in touch with Ambassador Moore in Dublin on any specific matters he might wish to raise with the U.S. Government.

Dr. Hillery said that the time may come when the Secretary could give “a little encouragement” to the British on working out a solution in Northern Ireland. He told the Secretary that he appreciated the hearing he had been given and remarked, “I have got all from you that I could have asked.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Executive Secretariat, Conference Files, 1949–72, CF 396. Confidential. Drafted by Thompson on October 1 and approved in S on October 2. This meeting took place at USUN.
  2. William Patrick Fay, Irish Ambassador to the United States from 1964 to 1969.