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177. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • President’s Meeting with Irish Foreign Minister

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Nixon
  • United States Ambassador to Ireland John D.J. Moore
  • Acting Chief of Protocol Marion H. Smoak
  • Colonel Richard Kennedy, National Security Council
  • Irish Foreign Minister Patrick Hillery

President Nixon met with Irish Foreign Minister Hillery for forty minutes, October 6, at the White House. After several minutes of courtesy points, the following subjects were discussed:

1. Dublin Landing Rights. The President told Dr. Hillery that he realized this issue was a point of difficulty between our two countries. He assured Dr. Hillery that he had been following the issue personally. All aspects had been thoroughly reported to him by Ambassador Moore and Mr. Mulcahy2 and others, and we have also had the views of high-level Irish officials such as Secretary McCann. He asked Dr. Hillery what was the real economic impact of our gaining Dublin landing rights. Dr. Hillery replied that there was no great impact as far as the Irish airline was concerned, but the real economic issue is the west of Ireland. Granting Dublin landing rights threatens to destroy the promising development in the Shannon area.

Ambassador Moore said that as far as the Shannon area was concerned he wanted to mention: (1) The President’s letter to Prime Minister Lynch 3 which gave assurances that our airlines would be required to stop at Shannon going to and from Dublin as long as the Irish airline did the same; also (2) there has been such a strong tourist industry built up in the west of Ireland that most tourists from America will stop there in any event.

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The President then brought up the matter of the Irish airline gaining the right to stop at New York and Boston on the way to Chicago, and asked if there were any figures on the effects of such a concession. Ambassador Moore replied that as far as he knew no figures were available, but perhaps the CAB could study the matter. The President concluded this subject by saying that he would review the landing rights matter again, that he wanted to find a settlement that would be fair to both sides, but he could make no promises.

2. Northern Ireland. The President expressed his profound sadness at the continuing bitterness and strife in Northern Ireland. He said that he had been looking into the history of the problem, and there were certain parallels with Poland’s history. He was shocked to read that the population of Ireland is now less than half of what it was before the famine of the 19th century. He said that he had a keen interest in finding a peaceful solution.

Dr. Hillery said that he had been encouraged by the British Government’s recent actions in Northern Ireland. Since February, when he had travelled to the United States to discuss the issue with Secretary Rogers,4 the British have seemed to be seeking a political solution rather than a military solution which has the approval of the Irish Government.

The President said that we were not in a position to openly or publicly intervene in Northern Ireland. He wanted Dr. Hillery to know that we appreciate Prime Minister Lynch’s constructive attitude in cooperating with the British to find a peaceful solution.

Dr. Hillery replied that his government did not seek open or public declarations by the United States Government but hoped in our private discussions with the British we would make our views known. The President replied that in all of our high level discussions with the British our views on Northern Ireland are expressed.

3. Economic Development. The President said he was keenly interested in the economic development of the west of Ireland and he hoped there was some way the United States could contribute to this development.

4. Irish Entry Into the EC .5 The President congratulated Dr. Hillery upon being named as the Irish Commissioner to the EC and asked about the effects on Ireland of entry into the Common Market. Dr. Hillery replied that Ireland would have tough going for the first two years, particularly in the industrial sector. The President said he agreed that was likely.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1026, Presidential/ HAK MemCons. Limited Official Use. Drafted by R.W. DuBose (EUR/NE). An attached November 19 note indicates that Sean O’Heiderian, Counselor the Irish Embassy, was also present at the meeting. In a September 21 briefing memorandum for Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt reviewed both the foreign policy and domestic political considerations that a meeting with Hillery entailed for the President. He noted that the Department of State had advised against such a meeting but that the President’s political advisers favored it. (Ibid.) A tape recording of the meeting is ibid., White House Tapes, Conversation 793–12.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. See Document 170.
  4. See Document 171.
  5. A May 11 plebiscite approved Ireland’s entry into the European Community effective January 1, 1973.