173. Telegram From the Embassy in Ireland to the Department of State1

657. Subj: Civair: Landing Rights.

1. Following up landing rights discussions which FonMin Dr. Hillery and PermSec McCann had with Ambassador Moore immediately prior to Ambassador’s departure for U.S. June 7, in which they asked us to postpone our August deadline until sometime next year when the political, Northern Ireland, and economic situations here would hopefully look better, McCann further reviewed matter with Chargé in two separate meetings June 8 and 9. We will not here recount McCann’s review of this issue nor our defense of the U.S. position since this ground has been gone over innumerable times.

2. In short McCann said that it was unthinkable that we would force his government to capitulate abjectly to all our demands. Chargé suggested that this was precisely why the GOI should negotiate—to see whether some compromise could not be reached. McCann replied that GOI feared to negotiate because once at the table they might still find our demands more than they could accept. He referred to the decline in tourism and Aer Lingus’ precarious position and said for these and for political reasons they could not afford a failure in the negotiations. The consequences of either being forced to give too much on the one hand or having the negotiations fail on the other hand had, he said, immobilized the government and brought about the present impasse.

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3. In the interest of finding a way out of the present situation, McCann asked whether, if he could galvanize his own political masters to settle on the basis of a package that would give us essentially what we wanted, we could determine whether the political will to accept such a package existed in Washington so that the outcome of another round of negotiations could be confidentially but absolutely guaranteed to the GOI. If this could be done, the government might be moved from its present frozen position. The Chargé said that the Embassy would, of course, relay to Washington any proposals that the GOI might wish to make. McCann countered that this was not going to be a proposal, but a maximum package resulting from soundings he would take that would guarantee to the Embassy that the GOI would settle on a certain basis if the Embassy could guarantee 100 percent that Washington would also agree. The negotiators could then be brought together to put this agreement in writing.

4. Chargé agreed that we would consider a package but stressed that the success of this initiative would probably depend upon how forthcoming the Irish could be. McCann said he understood this, that he would come back with a maximum package since, if his effort did not succeed, he “frankly did not know where or how this thing would end up.” Mindful of earlier discussions, Chargé emphasized the importance to US of onward rights. McCann said he had already looked at this very carefully, that he would, of course, take new soundings but that the word he got was that Aer Lingus considered this concession would be ruinous and would not accept it.

5. Foregoing discussions took place June 8 and 9. During remainder of that week and up until Wednesday, June 14, McCann told us he canvassed all those in the Irish Cabinet who would ultimately be responsible for a decision. Discussions were very secret, however, and did not extend beyond minimum number of participants in order to minimize risk of any leaks that would bring renewed charges from the political opposition and from the Shannon area of a “secret deal” and a “sellout.” On June 14 McCann called Chargé to FonOffice and gave him a paper on which was written the maximum “deal” that McCann said he was able to get. Following are the contents of this paper:

1) One US carrier into Dublin via Shannon each way;

2) No onward rights from Dublin;

3) Compulsory stop at Shannon each way, it being understood that other transatlantic airlines enroute to Dublin do so as well;

4) Irish rights to New York to be continued after August;

5) The Irish airline to be permitted to operate via New York and via Boston to Chicago; and

6) Starting date for access to Dublin for US airline to be April 1973.

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6. In communicating foregoing to the Chargé, McCann emphasized a second time that this was not an “offer” but a maximum package resulting from his soundings. He wanted to know if we could ascertain whether the landing rights issue could be settled on this basis and, if so, give him an “assurance” that another round of formal negotiations would arrive at this solution. If we could do this, he said we were in business; if not, he had done all he could to achieve a political solution and would simply “retire” from the problem to let others try to find a way out. He also stressed the absolute need on our side to keep this initiative secret, that if word of it leaked and the Shannon people and the political opposition learned of what he was trying to do, the government would be forced to back away once again and we would all be back to square one.

7. In seeking clarification of some of the six points in McCann’s package, Chargé determined that the right to operate via New York and via Boston to Chicago does not include the right to carry passengers between these points within the United States. McCann insisted that change in Chicago rights, while enabling Aer Lingus to achieve more efficient utilization of its equipment, would in no way diminish the competitive position of the American carriers. It was an essential quid pro quo, he said, which would enable the GOI to save face, while, at the same time, costing us nothing. (We note that PanAm no longer serves Chicago.) He insisted that he had tried once again for onward rights, but that this had been impossible to get. He opined that anything more that we might be looking for was really of marginal economic value and was not worth the damage to our relations which would result if a “reasonable” breakthrough cannot be achieved.

8. We believe McCann is sincere in trying to find way out of what he regards as an impossible situation for the Irish Government. McCann has emphasized that, whatever our response, if positive we must be able to give him a 100 percent assurance so that he can neutralize fears within the Cabinet of a possible failure in another round of negotiations.

Action Requested: Department requested ascertain whether USG can accept or must reject McCann’s package as a basis for settling landing rights question and, if so, whether Embassy can convey assurances requested.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 694, Country Files—Europe, Ireland. Secret; Immediate; Niact; Exdis. Sent to the White House for Peter Flanigan and Clift, to EUR for Springsteen and Scott George, and to the Economic Bureau for Rein and Meadows.