Bush officials more interested in pub greeters than getting involved in Northern Ireland question

The Government tried to get George Bush more involved in tackling the Troubles by warning that the USSR would exploit growing IRA support.

State papers have revealed that ahead of a one-day visit to Dublin in 1983, officials said Taoiseach Garrett FitzGerald should use the Soviet Union threat as a way of getting support from the then US vice-president.

The advice was offered amid planning for the Fourth of July arrival, but White House aides were less preoccupied with the Northern Ireland question and more involved in arrangements for a “spontaneous meet-the-people” stop for Mr Bush in a pub.

But seeing an opportunity to get Washington on board with the political situation, advisers to Mr FitzGerald and Minister for Foreign Affairs Peter Barry urged them to use the growing terror threat and closeted support for the Provos to drum up interest.

“It is suggested that the Taoiseach and the minister rather than stressing the fact that Sinn Féin made little or no gains in the recent election, should on the other hand emphasise the present serious level of support and the opportunities which this creates for subversion and indeed outside [Soviet] exploitation,” documents released under the 30 year rule revealed.

The steering note in files from the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Dublin felt the British Government was not taking the Northern Ireland question seriously.

Officials told the Taoiseach to warn vice-president Bush that Sinn Féin was becoming an increasing left-wing party and that nationalists were feeling increasingly alienated from the political process in Northern Ireland.

They said that covert support for republican leaders would not have been expected in 1981, during the hunger strikes, and is a threatening situation.

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