IT’S ONE OF the more unlikely moments of Irish history.
New documents from the National Archives released under the 30 year rule reveal that Cuban leader Fidel Castro (briefly) visited Ireland in 1982 – and left a gift for then-Taoiseach Charles Haughey.
The documents show that the Cuban president stopped off at Shannon Airport in late 1982. It is unclear where he was travelling to, or how long he remained in Ireland; one theory is that he may have required a stopover when he travelled to the USSR for the funeral of CCCP leader Leonid Brezhnev in November of that year, but the documents give little detail.
Haughey wrote a private letter to the Cuban president on 9 December 1982 – one of the final acts he performed during his term as Taoiseach in that government – to thank him for the gift Castro had left for him. An election in November had seen Fine Gael and Labour form a coalition and Garrett Fitzgerald took over from Haughey as Taoiseach on 14 December, just five days after the letter was written.
In the letter, Haughey thanked Castro for the “magnificent gift” of cigars and a casket which the Cuban leader left for the Taoiseach during the stopover.
“The hand-carved casket is most impressive and the cigars will be greatly enjoyed by my family and friends at Christmas,” Haughey told Castro.
Given the differences in political philosophies between the two men and Cold War tensions at the time, it is somewhat surprising how eager Haughey seemed to be to meet with the socialist leader, telling him:
Please accept my apologies that I could not be there to greet you in person but I hope that we can meet on some future occasion.
The letter ends with Haughey expressing his “warm personal regards” for the Cuban leader.
(Photo: Paul Hyland/TheJournal.ie)