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'Beauty and splendour' of Adare Manor passed over as possible 1989 East-West summit venue

Charles Haughey wished “to reply personally” to Adare’s Managing Director.

bush-meets-gorbachev George H. W. Bush meets Mikhail Gorbachev at the White House in 1990. Source: Sachs Ron/CNP/ABACA

LOCATED ALONG THE banks of the River Maigue in Co Limerick, the 19th-century Adare Manor might have hosted the historic 1989 East-West Summit were it not for the Department of Foreign Affairs claiming its service was not up to scratch for important meetings. 

In a letter to Taoiseach Charles Haughey in May that year, Adare Manor’s Managing Director wrote to congratulate the Taoiseach on a “proud day for Ireland”.

The day in question was a flying visit to Ireland by charismatic Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on his way to Cuba on 2 April. 

Haughey and his team, delighted with the brief visit, once again offered to host a US-Soviet Summit. The Cold War was drawing to a close at the time, though in early 1989 relations between the United States and the USSR had not yet thawed. 

The day before Gorbachev arrived in Ireland, US President George H W Bush wrote to Haughey asking him to raise the issue of Central America with the Soviet leader amidst continued Soviet and Cuban military support for Nicaragua. 

In reply, Haughey said he “availed of the occasion of my talks with President Gorbachev to convey to him emphatically our interest in good Soviet-American relations.

“I expressed to him our satisfaction that these relations had progressed very favourably recently and our hope that developments in Central America will not put any obstacles in the way of their further favourable development.”

One month later, Haughey received a letter. 

“Amidst much speculation” that Ireland was next to host the East-West summit between Bush and Gorbachev, “the magnificent setting of Adare Manor” was suggested as a venue by its Managing Director. 

You are, of course, aware of the beauty and splendour of the Manor and surrounding demesne. I assure you that the attendant facilities and first-class service befitting the graciousness of Adare Manor are an integral part of our commitment to excellence. 

Adare Manor had been open as a hotel for eight months by then and hosted Haughey the previous year. Built in 1862, the Neo-Gothic manor was the former seat of the Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl. 

The Manor was purchased by American businessman Thomas Kane in 1987 and turned into Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort. Since then, it has been consistently ranked among the best resorts in Ireland. 

In 2015, the five-star hotel was bought by Limerick business man J.P. McManus for an estimated €30 million and, in 2016, underwent an extensive 18-month refurbishment.

Haughey wished “to reply personally” to Adare Manor, his Secretary told the Chief of Protocol in a reply, asking advice for what he should say.  

The Chief then replied saying her team “recently visited Adare when checking on a possible venue for the informal meeting of Foreign Ministers during the [European Commission] Presidency and we came to the conclusion that the standard of the service was not adequate for a meeting of this type”.

The East-West Summit ended up being hosted in Malta in December 1989 – just three weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall – where Gorbachev and Bush declared an end to the Cold War. 

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It was a highly symbolic gesture echoing the 1945 Malta Conference held between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The Soviet delegation had their quarters on the missile cruiser Slava with the US delegation using the USS Belknap for the conference. 

Haughey drafted a reply to Adare Manor’s Managing Director nonetheless thanking him for his letter and assuring him that the location would “be considered as a possible venue for the next East-West Summit. 

The facilities at Adare Manor are indeed excellent, as I well remember from my most enjoyable stay there last year. 

There has been no decision yet regarding the location for the next East-West Summit. I can assure you, however, that should it be decided to hold the Summit in Ireland, Adare Manor will certainly be considered as a possible venue. 

I have passed on to my staff the very helpful background information which you enclosed.

Finally, may I take this opportunity to thank you for your compliments on the success of the recent visit by President Gorbachev.

Yours Sincerely,

Charles J. Haughey

Taoiseach 

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