Ceausescu expected fanfare on stopover

HE HAD a tight grip on all aspects of his nation’s life but Romanian diplomats were anxious that their president Nicolae Ceausescu would not be outdone by rival communist leader Marshall Tito during a 90-minute stopover in Shannon during April, 1978.

London embassy official John Burke wrote an “urgent” communique dated April 3, 1978, to the department of foreign affairs outlining his discussions with the Romanian counsellor in Britain, Nicu Bujor.

Accompanying the communique was a vinyl record of the Eastern European state’s new anthem, which had been adopted the previous December, two flags and a notice that the Romanians expected a certain level of fanfare to accompany their leader’s visit.

Mr Burke wrote: “A point made insistently by Bujor is that his authorities would very much hope that President Ceausescu can be received by us with at least equivalent protocol to that accorded recently to the president of Yugoslavia. He mentioned, in particular, the matter of a military honour guard and inspection.”

The 85-year-old Tito had visited Shannon in March.

During his short stop in Shannon on April 11, the Romanian president, accompanied by his wife Elena and senior officials, were received by a guard of honour and held discussions with the minister for foreign affairs, Michael O’Kennedy.

Mr Burke noting “after the discussions president Ceausescu visited the duty free shopping area before returning to his aircraft.”

Airport diplomacy was a feature of Mr O’Kennedy’s duties, as international leaders regularly stopped off at Shannon for refuelling while travelling to the US.

President Ceausescu was on his way to meet US president Jimmy Carter when he visited Ireland.

Both Ceausescu and Tito were viewed as mavericks within the Eastern Bloc, the Yugoslav leader having refused to slavishly follow the USSR following World War II, while Ceausescu promoted an independent policy for his country from the 1960s.

During his short stopover in Ireland, Ceausescu linked his international approach to Ireland’s, telling journalists “that there was a great similarity between the Romanian and Irish people in that they were hard working, diligent and endeavoured to maintain their independence and sovereignty.”

Nicolae Ceausescu, along with his wife Elena, were shot on Christmas Day 1989 following a popular revolt which toppled their regime.

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