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Dublin: 13°C Thursday 28 October 2021

Irish officials were worried European leaders would refuse to attend meetings in hotels 

The Department of Foreign Affairs warned it could cost £2 million to hire private facilities for meetings during Ireland’s EC presidency.

Leaders pose during an EU summit in Dublin in April 1990.
Leaders pose during an EU summit in Dublin in April 1990.
Image: DPA/PA Images

THE DEPARTMENT OF Foreign Affairs expressed concern in 1989 that European Council politicians would refuse to attend meetings during Ireland’s presidency if they had to be held at private facilities like hotels, rather than State premises.

Included in State Papers released under the 30-year rule, the Department of Foreign Affairs wrote to the Office of Public works in 1985, warning that it would be “totally impracticable”, based on security, cost and operational considerations.

The department also estimated it could cost £2 million to hire private facilities for these meetings. 

The letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs expressed concern about proposals to use private facilities while restoration and development work was carried out at Dublin Castle. Dublin Castle had been used as the venue for previous high level EC Presidency meetings.

“The security problems associated with the occasional use of private or commercial facilities as a venue for such meetings cannot be over-emphasised,” it said.

For security reasons, Dublin Castle, as the venue of previous high level EC Presidency meetings, had to be closed to the public for the entire six months of our 1979 and 1984 presidencies.

The department said it was aware from recent contacts that at least two heads of government within the 10 “will not, under any circumstances, contemplate using facilities for accommodation or meetings which have not been totally secured for a period of six months beforehand”.

Our planning for the 1990 presidency must include the assumption that they and perhaps other senior political personalities would not be prepared to attend a meeting of the European Council organised in a building such as a hotel to which there had been uncontrolled access in the previous six months.

It said the cost associated with even the occasional hire of private facilities for EC meetings would be “significant”, possibly in the order of £2 million. 

The department said even if it was acceptable to EC politicians, the use of private facilities would “create significant problems” for the physical organisation of meetings due to the need to repeatedly install conference set-ups. 

Ireland held Presidency of the Council of the European Union, or the European Economic Community as it was referred to before 1993, from January to June of 1990. During that time it held two major summit meetings in Dublin which agreed an EU welcome for German reunification after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The meetings also agreed a common approach to community relations with central and eastern European countries after the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

Although the government continued to mainly State buildings such as Farmleigh and Dublin Castle for meetings in more recent EC presidency years, hotels have been used for some meetings. 

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