STATE DOCUMENTS, RELEASED under the 30 Year Rule, have revealed details about the 1983 visit of Henry Kissinger which the government did its best to ‘play down’.
According to notes kept in the Department of the Taoiseach, the former US National Security Advisor and Secretary to State was invited by businessman Tony O’Reilly.
It was not an official State visit and Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald’s officials were “anxious to play down Government involvement” in light of a “very critical book that was widely reviewed in Irish newspapers”.
However, there was a government lunch on 30 June organised at Iveagh House and, later that evening, Fitzgerald attended a dinner at O’Reilly’s home. There were also plans in place for a short bilateral meeting either before the Thursday lunch or on Friday morning.
On 1 July, a lunch was also organised and funded by O’Reilly’s Heinz to which the Taoiseach was allowed to invite his own guest list.
The note, dated 29 June 1983, explains that Kissinger has been “a good friend to this country in the best sense viz. his valuable advice to us – given on many occasions – on floating loans the international capital market”.
“His experience is as extensive and wide-ranging as his literary output e.g. Vietnam, Middle East (shuttle diplomacy) relationships with China, oil crisis, Allende’s Chile, Moscow, SALT, (Watergate and the Year of Europe).”
Over the two days, Kissinger was also provided with security and a motorcycle escort.
The visit was met with some criticism because of his involvement with the Vietnam War and the bombings in Cambodia. The government faced some questions about whether it extended the official invite.
Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey put the question to the Taoiseach in the Dáil, to which Fitzgerald responded that he was the guest of an “Irish industrialist”.
“The only official entertainment offered to him was a lunch which I hosted and which, the Deputy will recall, he was kind enough to attend himself…”
During his stay, Kissinger stayed with the O’Reilly family in their home in Kilcullen, county Kildare. In press briefings put out by Heinz at the time, his job title was given as university lecturer and adviser on international relations to multinational companies.
Writing in the Sunday Tribune following the visit, Vincent Browne described Kissinger as “no ordinary guest”.
“His undoubted accomplishments and distinctions are dwarfed by the demonic character of what he has done to the people of Cambodia and Vietnam. No one else who is likely to visit our shores will have perpetrated such appalling crimes against humanity.”
For further study, see National Archives 2013/100/900