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George H.W. Bush wanted to have a ‘word in Thatcher’s ear’

The then-US Vice President wanted to influence Anglo-Irish relations, but timing prevented it.

Image: AP Photo

THE THEN-US Vice President, and eventual President, George H.W. Bush was keen to interject in Anglo-Irish relations, but timing disallowed it.

State Papers from 1983 show that when Bush was making a short visit to Ireland, a member of his staff expressed regret that Bush could not have ‘a word in the right ear’ of then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

A briefing note sent from Washington DC to the Department of Foreign Affairs by then-Irish Ambassador Seán Donlon shows that a conversation between the embassy and the Vice-President’s staff expressed regret that Bush would be in Britain before he came to Ireland.

Had it worked the other way round, Bush would have spoken to Thatcher about the Irish Government’s reconciliation policies.


The note further reveals that the visit itself was ‘an afterthought’. The Vice-President was invited to Ireland by the staff of the US Embassy here, with Ireland’s contribution to UN peacekeeping suggested as a reason for the visit.



Further papers reveal that the Taoiseach’s Department planned to use the Cold War to drum up support for Irish reconciliation efforts.

It was suggested that Bush could be made aware of growing Soviet support for the IRA in an attempt to persuade him to join the Irish corner in contentious talks with the British.

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