TRADE MISSIONS HAVE become an everyday occurrence in recent years with Ireland seeking to woo foreign investors from around the world.
However in 1976, the shoe was on the other foot as then Foreign Affairs Minister Garret Fitzgerald travelled to Russia for a trade visit, where he and other members of his delegation were given “the royal treatment”.
In a confidential wire from the US Embassy in Ireland to the White House, released by Wikileaks, an aide to the ambassador said the Russians “apparently went all out” to impress the four man Irish delegation on the first ever visit of an Irish foreign minister since the opening of diplomatic relations in 1973.
It goes on to say that Fitzgerald and his assistants expressed themselves as “not taken in” though the four journalists they brought along may have been
We have not been getting fulsome stories in our papers. That is not to say that the Russians are quickly going to lose the loud harassment which is their normal fate here. Ireland is still a very conservative Catholic country which believes that ‘Godless’ communists are in league with Satan.
The aide says that the embassy has been briefed by several participants and received a long briefing from then Political Director Noel Dorr in which he stressed that the trip “was more ceremonial than substantive”.
According to the wire, the Irish government were disappointed that they were not able to talk more on the “bread and butter economic issues” and Fitzgerald was refused a meeting with the Russian foreign trade minister.
It goes on to say that the only real friction came in negotiating a joint communique on the trip and that Dorr “described with amused admiration the great acting abilities of the Russians who projected surprise and deep hurt” when they original draft was rejected.
The disagreement mainly involved comments on the use of nuclear weapons and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe implementation, particularly humanitarian issues.
Dorr is said to have told the embassy that “nothing tangible resulted from the economic talks” but he is convinced that the delegation impressed upon the soviets “the political importance” of trade.
The aide describes the relationship between the two countries as a “beauty and the beast situation as seen from here, with the Soviets being very much the suitors to the coy but increasingly accepting Irish”.