The Guardian has a good round-up of most of the significant Process™ related sections of the US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks. But there are a few sections worth highlighting in that they corroborate elements of other accounts that have been published previously. In particular the account by Mary-Alice Clancy.
From a US Embassy cable dated 04 February 2005
5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the GOI’s approach to the peace process was to “sit tight” and let Sinn Fein find its way back. Equally, the GOI will stay engaged with Sinn Fein, including a February 4 meeting between FM Dermott Ahern and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that until the bank robbery, there was every expectation that a comprehensive agreement would be reached. He said the two outstanding issues, decommissioning and criminality, had been considered resolvable until the bank robbery — which he termed a “tragedy that stopped everything.” Senator Martin Mansergh, who remains influential in the peace process and close to the Taoiseach, was more expansive. He said that Sinn Fein must get the message to draw a line under paramilitarism and criminality. Echoing what we have also heard from DFA, Mansergh said that since the robbery, there is no longer any willingness to accept Sinn Fein’s argument that it needs time to bring the IRA along. Like other contacts, Mansergh said that ten years is long enough and this time, all around talks can only begin on the basis of the IRA winding up. Neither Mansergh nor any government official has yet defined what they would need from Sinn Fein. They say that they will not again work on a comprehensive package only to have it fall apart at the end because of the IRA yet also say they would not expect decommissioning and a cessation of criminality to be a pre-requisite to all party talks. [added emphasis]
US Embassy cable dated 08 March 2005
6. (C) On the Northern Ireland peace process, Cowen expected that Sinn Fein would “go off to sort itself out” following the party’s annual conference on March 4-6 in Dublin. He believed that, after the May Westminster elections, Sinn Fein would attempt to convince people of its seriousness about criminality through actions designed to back up the party’s recent positive rhetoric on the subject. Cowen related his impression that Gerry Adams was playing a “double game” — taking a hard public line against criminality, but avoiding definitive action in order to retain maneuverability for final negotiations with unionists. Cowen thought the family of murder victim Robert McCartney had done a valuable public service in exposing this form of equivocation. The Minister also expressed hope that the U.S. Congress would deliver a strong message to Sinn Fein over St. Patrick’s Day on the need for a final resolution in Northern Ireland, especially with the IRA cease-fire now more than ten years old. A series of Congressional hearings on Northern Ireland focusing on the criminality question would, maintained Cowen, help to bring political pressure on Sinn Fein to take the necessary steps in pursuit of a final deal. [added emphasis]
We know that the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, got that message.
And from a US Embassy cable dated 01 June 2005
4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX opened the meeting with an update of GOI actions. He said there had been very little GOI engagement with Sinn Fein since the talks broke down in December. He cited one meeting in January, one in March in Washington, and several private meetings between the Taoiseach and Gerry Adams. Significantly, he said the official feelings toward Sinn Fein had changed with all that has happened since December (Northern Bank robbery, money laundering, McCartney killing.) XXXXXXXXXXXX said the GOI is interested in the Good Friday Agreement and not in any “lesser models or deals.” Following UK elections, the pace was picking up, he said, and he outlined a series of expected contacts with all parties. He said the GOI was pleased at PM Blair’s re-election, and that Sinn Fein is aware that this is Blair’s “last lap.” That, he said, plays both ways. Sinn Fein knows that no successor is likely to be as engaged in the process as Blair, and that he represents their best hope of a deal. On the other hand, Sinn Fein also believes they could take advantage of Blair’s interest in getting a deal before leaving office. Special Envoy Reiss, referring to his talks in London, said it is never good in a negotiation to appear more eager than the other side. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the UK had offered Sinn Fein a package following the December 8 breakdown, but withdrew it after the Northern Bank robbery. (Note: Sinn Fein has frequently expressed anger at the UK for “going back on its word.” While never specifically mentioning a post-December 8 package, during the negotiations, Sinn Fein seemed confident that the UK felt Sinn Fein’s decommissioning offer was worth taking up even if a comprehensive deal with the DUP was not reached.) [added emphasis]
8. (C) The Taoiseach joined the meeting, and layed out his vision of the way forward. Like XXXXXXXXXXXX he felt any deal was many months away, with talks not starting until September and a deal not likely until January. The Taoiseach then discussed what he felt was realistic to expect from the IRA. He said that no one can expect the IRA to agree to disband; rather, it could enter a new commemorative role. His own father, he said, considered himself to be an IRA man to the day he died in the 1990’s. IRA members, he said, consider themselves to be soldiers and their IRA membership is the center of their lives. They could, however, convert to a commemorative organization that visits graves and plans events to mark the anniversaries of atrocities. The Taoiseach said he had explained this to DUP leader Ian Paisley. By the same token, the Taoiseach said Sinn Fein knows that they have milked the process as much as they can. He said that “Gerry understands criminality must end”, even if he will not say that the IRA has been involved in crime. [added emphasis]
12. (C) FM Ahern said that Sinn Fein knows serious negotiations cannot begin unless trust is re-established. On the other hand, he said, maybe that’s not what they want. (Note: FM Ahern is here referencing the theory that Sinn Fein finds engaging in the peace process in its interest because it softens the image of the party and gives them photo opportunities with prime ministers. According to this theory, the process is in Sinn Fein’s interest, but Sinn Fein is not actually interested in striking a deal.) FM Ahern also touched on the balance the GOI tries to strike in talking about and to Sinn Fein. He said PSNI and others told the GOI that its tough line on Sinn Fein since December had been helpful but no longer was, and they should “lighten up.” On the other hand, the GOI also is asked why it talks to Sinn Fein at all, given that the International Monitoring Commission reports that they are continuining their activities. He noted that it is difficult for the two prime ministers to say “no” when Gerry Adams asks for a meeting. He said Sinn Fein is insisting on working out details at the top level of government only. (COMMENT: This is tactically smart of Gerry Adams, especially if he, like others, sees the Taoiseach as less tough on republicans than the outspoken Justice Minister or quieter but equally firm Foreign Minister.) [added emphasis]
19. (C) McDowell said some lessons have been learned about how to deal with the provisional movement. McDowell said that you only get concessions from the provisionals when you put your hand on their throat. When you play their propaganda game, they press for concessions. McDowell said he was “delighted” that Sinn Fein was not invited to the White House on March 17. Looking forward, he said, the GOI was not in appeasement mode, and should offer a cold shoulder to the provisionals. Sinn Fein, he said, is “asking for warm words” but governments should not offer them. He credited Sinn Fein with being “brilliant negotiators.” They create eagerness and a sense of partnership, as if to say, “let’s get together to sort out Sinn Fein problems.” What they cannot stand, he said, is skepticism. McDowell said he has warned Peter Hain against side deals with the provisionals, especially now that there is no center ground in Northern Ireland. [added emphasis]
And, subsequently, in a US Embassy cable dated 31 May 2006
8. (C) In his discussion with the Taoiseach (and in separate meetings, per paras below), Special Envoy Reiss reported from his May 19 discussions at Stormont that he sensed no urgency among the parties, particularly the DUP, to commence work on an Executive deal. He noted that DUP was likely to ignore the November 24 deadline in public defiance of the British and Irish Governments. The DUP also appeared confident that it could achieve in the first few months after November any deal that was achievable by November 24. Reiss elaborated that DUP leaders indicated no intention of engaging Sinn Fein, partly out of fear that negotiations with Gerry Adams would see the unionist community “lose its shirt.”
9. (C) Sinn Fein leaders, by contrast, were relaxed in their discussions with Reiss, with Gerry Adams focused on USG permission for fund-raising activities in the United States in the fall. Reiss believed that Adams was prepared to endorse joint policing, not only to avoid blame if the November 24 deadline passed, but also to project a positive political image for Sinn Fein in the South’s 2007 general elections. Adams also suggested that a Sinn Fein Executive Council decision, rather than a full party conference, might be sufficient to endorse policing. Reiss agreed with the Taoiseach that there had been progress in the republican community, as was evident from friendly interaction with the PSNI that would have been impossible six months ago. [added emphasis]