Wikileaks: “What [Sinn Féin] cannot stand, he said, is skepticism.”

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]

*Cuckoo* *Cuckoo*

  • Mick Fealty

    Three comments have been removed before we even start talking about the substance of the post above. A reminder of the comment policy below:

  • oracle

    Wikki leaks just gets better by the day

  • redhugh78

    What’s the point of this thread?

    That SF can’t stand skepticism?

    The ironic thing is, Mc Dowell- gone, Blair-gone, Bertie- gone, Dermot Ahern – soon to be gone.

    Adams – soon to be elected to the Dail.

  • pippakin

    The thing about the north is that everyone already ‘knows’ everything and so we are totally opposed to anything that contradicts or challenges our convictions.

    I’m loving Wikileaks, it is a conspiracy theorists dream. Its hard to remember that very little of it is hard fact, but rather a kind of international gossip,

  • Mark

    Is the tone of the thread or the author’s analysis not relevant ?

    Pete Baker – Is cuckoo cuckoo a dig at Gerry Adams .

  • Mark

    Redhugh78 ,

    Red , I have asked that question in 3 different ways and the comments have been erased.

  • Mark

    Pippakin ,

    ” the thing about the north is that everyone already knows everything ” Exactly , we don’t need the americans to tell us what’s what .

  • pippakin


    No we don’t, but then we never did. It didn’t stop some making full use of them.

  • granni trixie

    Self fulfillling prophesy? Not. This leak confirms to me that influential people acted in the belief that there is no middle ground without appreciating that this in itself was an obstacle for that middle ground in its struggle to exercise its own kind of influence. These leaks concerning NI and ROI suggests that an unsophisticated,unnuanced impression directed strategies.

  • Greenflag

    ‘we don’t need the americans to tell us what’s what ”

    That’s right – NI just needed the American George Mitchell to criss cross the Atlantic hundreds of times over a period of 5 years to get the NI boneheads of unionism and republicanism to talk directly to each other and eventually agree on an agreement which may not be satisfactory to all but has given some hope to a shared political future.

    ‘The ironic thing is, Mc Dowell- gone, Blair-gone, Bertie- gone, Dermot Ahern – soon to be gone.’

    Not forgetting Paisley, Molyneux, Trimble , Empey, Durkan , etc etc

    Whatever about NI the best of Wikileaks is yet to come -hopefully they can get it out before the securocrats stop them.

    Of much more import to the world than any SF or any NI or Vatican revelations is what Wikileaks have dug up on Goldman Sachs and Bank of America – Now that will send the politicians in Washington DC into tizzy .

  • Mick Fealty


    “McDowell-gone, Blair-gone, Bertie- gone, Dermot Ahern – soon to be gone.”

    That’s unnervingly close to something the Doc used to say. 😉 I’m surprised you see Blair as an opponent though.

  • Fionn

    Gosh the greening of Slugger, first its highlighted that NI would cost less than a months trade surplus for it annual keep, and now Slugger highlights to us the outstanding negotiating skills of Sinn Fein only weeks after GOI sold the country down the river.

    Mick and Pete yer not going over to the dark side are ye

  • Cynic2

    All those deaths ….just for this political pirouetting

  • another

    The essence of the Wikileaks Story, must surely be just what is is that conventional newspapers have been doing for the past fifty years; not least in the context of N.Ireland.

    What the specific comments in relation to Sinn Fein actually seem to reveal, is the extent to which comments on the organisation and the IRA were purely speculative conjecture. The state had spies in both organisations; it bugged Sinn Fein, yet it did not manage to call either the Northern Bank or Canary Wharf. One is very much left with the impression that Sinn Fein were running rings around the Brits and the Yanks.

  • Greenflag

    ‘One is very much left with the impression that Sinn Fein were running rings around the Brits and the Yanks.’

    And the SDLP and the UUP and FF and FG and Irish Labour and the Greens and eventually the IMF and ECB.

    SF knows where everybody lives so Ollie Rehm and Chopra and Sarkozy and Merkel might want to take note 😉

    The ‘Teflon ‘ Party continues on it’s way while our established ‘elite ‘ are trashing around in the nire of their own making ;(

  • redhugh78

    I wasn’t listing them as opponents per se, more to do with highlighting the longevity of Adams and the Republican project.
    We all know that this wilkileaks palava is old hat but there’s an election coming up so needs must,needs be, was it ever any different?
    We’ll pobably have Jean Mc Conville etc etc etc all wheeled out too no doubt.

  • Pete Baker

    “We all know that this wilkileaks palava is old hat but there’s an election coming up so needs must,needs be, was it ever any different?”


    The confidential US Embassy cables have only now been published.

    When should they have been blogged?

    And in case you missed it, and this is relevant to Mark’s question too, the *Cuckoo* *Cuckoo* isn’t “a dig” at anyone.

    It’s a response to Adams’ claim that

    “Anyone writing about the Process and Sinn Féin being under pressure to act from this one or that one is in the land of the cuckoo..”

    This contemporary, confidential, evidence contradicts that claim and supports the accounts I’ve noted in the original post.

    And that’s why it’s been blogged.

  • percy

    well peteb at least McDowel didn’t claim what SF cannot stand is cynicism ..

  • redhugh78

    the US embassy cables are new, the point I’m making is the content within them is not.

  • Pete Baker



    When should they have been blogged?

    And in case you missed it, and this is relevant to Mark’s question too, the *Cuckoo* *Cuckoo* isn’t “a dig” at anyone.

    It’s a response to Adams’ claim that

    “Anyone writing about the Process and Sinn Féin being under pressure to act from this one or that one is in the land of the cuckoo..”

    This contemporary, confidential, evidence contradicts that claim and supports the accounts I’ve noted in the original post.

    And that’s why it’s been blogged now.

  • Mark

    There is an implication that Adams himself is Cuckoo ( a term / slang for describing someone as crazy , touched , daft , silly etc but thanks for at least replying to my observation Pete . I was begining to think you don’t like me

  • Fionn

    Am I the only one struggling to see where SF where under pressure to act?

    Have I missed something, what was the pre-Dec 8th package that HMG withdrew

  • Nunoftheabove

    What strikes me in all this is that, given the apparent grudging respect that SF has secured from virtually all players in the process for the extent to which it deployed untold guile to optimize its negotiating position and secure all that it could reasonably get, is simply this – if what they got out of the , brinkmanship etc in order to squeeze the juice out of the process, and that this is acknowledged by those doing the moving and facilitating and ‘conceding’, just exactly how low must their expectations have been to begin with ? Perhaps this tells us that while they did obviously have a baseline beneath which they couldn’t conceivably play, they (or a critical mass of the influencers within their team, at any rate) must have been virtually desperate to end the conflict when the time came.

  • Greenflag


    ‘must have been virtually desperate to end the conflict when the time came.’

    So what . Is it not a good thing to end conflict . Better again never to start . Between 1900 and 2000 approx 200 million died in conflict or as a result of famines, genocides ,civil wars ,world wars etc .Since 2000 probably another 10 million mostly in Africa but we don’t yet know the total for the Afghan/Iraqi and possibly a future Iran war .

    Of course those deaths were ‘justifiable ‘ just the one in Northern Ireland were’nt ?

    I’ve no idea how low or how high SF expectations were but it seems to me that because of the failure of other politicians in NI both unionist and nationalis, SF were enable to climb to the top of the political pyramid with more than a little help from the Iron Lady 🙁

    Will the same happen in the Republic ? It’s not impossible but the background up to now made it much less a possibility . We just have to continue electing politicians whose heads are in the sand -just like most of the UUP in NI 1920 -1972 🙁 and it’ll be deja vu time again .

  • HeinzGuderian

    Erm,maybe I’m missing something here 😉 but if the shinners are doing so well……………….the only ones left standing on the pitch,as it were……………then how come that flag flying proudly from the City Hall,looks suspiciously like a Union Flag ??

    Sooner or later…………and given the nat/rep capacity for slow learning,(refusal to recognise the NI State from 1922)I’m betting later………….the shinners and their apologists will have to face their real opponents. The Unionist people…………..hehe we haven’t gone away ye know……………;-)

  • Nunoftheabove


    Yeah and unionism hasn’t changed very much either since 1922, more’s the pity. I agree with you that all the guff about SF doing well isn’t actually at all well founded. It may be electorally true in the north (..they don’t set their standards terribly high these days) but, as the guy above says, “so what ?”. They don’t enjoy sovereignty over anything very much and my money’s on their not being close to any part of what’s left of the sovereignty of the south or who/waht governs it any time soon either.


    I think you’re assuming that I was placing a value judgment on how well or otherwise they did or the worth of it and how it was brought about or whether any of us should be surprised, delighted or in any meaningful way moved about it either way. I wasn’t.

  • Greenflag


    Apologies for the late reply but I’ve been ‘off for about 36 hours . No idea why – perhaps something to do with server ?

    BTW I was’nt assuming anything or at least I don’t think I was . Politics ultimately comes down to the haves versus the have nots -not just in NI but everywhere .When the gap between the one and the other becomes politically as divisive as it is now in some western economies then the stage is set for conflict and that as we know from the NI experience and the Weimar and others can lead anywhere.

    You can’t have a ‘democracy’ when between 1% and 5% of the population own 90% of the wealth .

    Whether SF can move beyond their current electorate upper limit now moved from 8% to 16% and break the 20% ‘new threshold we’ll see . If they do we may see a new coalition of forces and an FG/FF coalition . The current government will try to keep the election long fingered maybe April/May in the hope that the public anger will have mollified by then . My feeling is that such a delay might even make their last state worse and might even provoke a greater vote loss and higher abstention rate by traditional supporters .