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Oral History

Edward M. Kennedy Oral History (3/20/2006), Senator

Copyright 2016 the Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Kennedy

Around about the period in the ’80s, which was—I think you covered some of that in the last interviews.

Young

Yes, we did.

Kennedy

Which was basically [William] Clark, who had been appointed by President [Ronald] Reagan. We took a little time to find out about him and begin to develop a relationship with him. President Reagan started very slowly getting into this issue, but eventually he gradually got into it and then he had his one visit over there to Ireland. We tried to make suggestions about where to go, and they had some interest but they sort of had their own plan on it. Then there was Margaret Thatcher, who was very critical of any American intervention. We thought that President Reagan might have some impact in sort of cooling her down at a rather significant time in the mid-’80s. 

The two subject matters that we’re talking about today, the [Jimmy] Carter proposal and the in-depth discussions of the [Gerry] Adams visa, are extremely important to get, because in the Adams case it was really the beginning of that whole march towards the Good Friday Agreement. That was really the beginning and I think historically it will be shown to be that way. 

The earlier statements were a precursor to this because there had to be an alteration and change in the American position with regards to Ireland, and that was the series of meetings and conversations and deliberations, which we will go through, and Presidential action that preceded that. So rather than talk about it as we did the last time—there’s probably some useful kind of information in that, and Conor O’Clery’s articles are very complete about the details and provisions. You’ve correctly identified the two rather dramatic moments in terms of the whole U.S.–Irish policy and our role in it. It’s worthwhile to get that nailed down. 

Let me just say I thought the filming went well. You’ve got two people here, John Hume and Garret FitzGerald, who are absolutely immune to interference in terms of their expression. I mean, both of them speak so well. They’re both so literate and eloquent. I was watching to see whether there was any time during those interviews that they might have had a sense of hesitancy and there was none, except I had trouble with Garret FitzGerald, understanding his accent.

Young

Yes. I’m wondering if we’ll have to do a text at the bottom. We also had a film with Al [Albert] Reynolds but they found it difficult to pull out just a very brief segment to show and we wanted to keep it short in the presentation the other day at the Miller Center. I think we probably have about a half-hour or 40 minutes with Al Reynolds. And we have probably an hour-and-a-half with John Hume. The part you saw was very early in the interview and as the interview went on he got really very tired. So it’s not as good toward the end but he’s really connecting.

Kennedy

I’ve talked to John Hume, because John Kerry was over there two weeks ago and made a speech in Derry. He commented on how John Hume might have a health problem. I talked to him yesterday, as a matter of fact, about coming over to get a check-up at the NIH [National Institutes of Health]. Tom Harkin has been helping on that, and John Kerry and I were to make the arrangements on it. So there’s a possibility that he would come over. We may do more with him if he does come over, if there is anything else that we can—

Young

Certainly we’ll do that. Did he describe to you his condition?

Kennedy

No, but I’m familiar with it and my sister Jean [Kennedy Smith] is familiar with it. It’s been an ongoing and continuing kind of condition.

Young

Well, certainly if he does come over we’ll follow up.

Kennedy

We can see.

Young

But it was a caution about wearing people out and Sean [Donlon] was extremely helpful in this because Sean sat in on part of the interview. We didn’t know until the last minute whether he would come or not. The interview was held at Garret’s house. John Hume came and Sean had been there earlier for the interview with Garret and he and Michael Lillis came over from Brazil so it was a very interesting morning. Sean and Garret really managed to get him there and get him to the interview.

Kennedy

That’s great.

Young

Without that I don’t think we would have succeeded. 

Nineteen seventy-seven was sort of the year you got into action against earlier statements that you had made. That was the year of the Four Horsemen statement. That was the year that John Hume was over here.

Kennedy

Right.

Young

It looks to me as if this was not your first involvement. This was the beginning of a planned action to turn the situation around.

Kennedy

That’s so. We’ve talked about the earlier ’70s, particularly the rather dramatic change that took place in Northern Ireland with internment and my initial expressions on the issue, and my eventually following up with John Hume. I had both read about him personally and read his statements and comments and had friends who had talked about him, and then we’d had those various meetings with him. He obviously had a very profound influence on me. He was eloquent and passionate and on the ground and demonstrated extraordinary personal courage. His philosophy had a great appeal to me. 

This is background for the ’70s. Earlier, I had been very much involved in the civil rights campaigns, the peaceful demonstrations here at home. Those were particularly in the mid-1960s and then the antiwar, anti-Vietnam protest, which was 1968, and they continued on through the ’70s. It wasn’t ended until the early 1970s. The racial issues. 

I had been interested in Greece, which had Prime Minister [Konstandinos] Karamanlis, whom I had met, overturned by the generals. They would have all been imprisoned and there was the issue of the restoration of democracy in Greece, particularly the interest that we had up in the state of Massachusetts. So my nerve endings were heightened and sharpened and obviously, with my emotional attachment to Ireland, this became front and center for me. 

As I had mentioned earlier, we had the Kent State killings here and the Bloody Sundays there, and the commission of inquiry that had looked into both indicated that if the students hadn’t been there and the demonstrators hadn’t been there it wouldn’t have happened—clearly a shameful whitewash. Those kinds of incidents continued along through ’76. The women’s peace movement was a very powerful, visible movement and the joining together of Protestant and Catholic women, both republican and loyalists, demonstrating for—

Young

That came after the car ran into the family and killed the family.

Kennedy

That came after, where an IRA [Irish Republican Army] gunman had been shot and his car went out of control and killed a family that was out for a walk, three children killed and the mother critically injured. The senseless killing of innocent children produced that wave of emotion that was reflected in the women’s movement. The women eventually went on for the Nobel Prize. 

This was a time, probably in the early part of 1977, when John Hume was at Harvard and was my contact. He was clearly the most persuasive and the most articulate, passionate, knowledgeable person about all of this situation. I worked with Tip [O’Neill] and Hugh Carey, both of whom had a long traditional position on the Irish issue, which was to support unification and fudge the question on violence. By showing that there was another way, which John Hume was able to do—these were enormously important meetings that he had with them to convince them of the appeal to non-violence and that the United States should—

Young

And you arranged that?

Kennedy

I arranged that.

Young

Did they occur in Washington?

Kennedy

There were several but the most important ones were in Boston. He might have traveled down here as well. I guess we had Hugh Carey come down to Washington another time and John couldn’t make it. These were meetings that took place by and large in Boston with John Hume. 

They had a remarkable effect, a quite dramatic effect, where both Hugh and Tip agreed that there should be a different path to be followed, one that would discourage the financial support for the IRA, and that we ought to try to find a different roadway towards reconciliation in Northern Ireland. That really resulted in the coming together of Tip and Hugh and myself and Pat Moynihan in what was labeled the Four Horsemen. We issued a statement in March of 1977 that really emerged from the meetings. That was the historic break with the Irish-American tradition and it was welcomed with relief by both the British and Irish Governments. The document itself—I have it there. I don’t know if it’s worthwhile going on through it. It’s a short document just pointing out that [reading]:

The world has looked with increasing concern in the past eight years on the continuing tragedy that afflicts the people of Northern Ireland. Each of us has tried in the past to use our good offices to help see that the underlying injustices at the heart of Northern Ireland are ended, so that a just and peaceful settlement may be secured. 

It is evident to us, as it is to concerned people everywhere, that continued violence cannot assist the achievement of such a settlement, but can only exacerbate the wounds that divide the people of Northern Ireland. 

We therefore join together in this appeal, which we make in a spirit of compassion and concern for the suffering people in the troubled part of Ireland. We appeal to all those organizations engaged in violence to renounce their campaigns of death and destruction and return to the path of life and peace. And we appeal as well to our fellow Americans to embrace this goal of peace, and to renounce any action that promotes the current violence or provides support or encouragement for organizations engaged in violence.

Those were the key provisions and we made this appeal on St. Patrick’s Day. Irish peoples of all traditions should feel proud and rejoice in our current heritage. It’s just those few lines but they were the ones to— All organizations engaged in violence to renounce their campaign of death and destruction and return to— We’re calling on all the organizations; the IRA and the—

Young

NORAID [Northern Ireland Aid].

Kennedy

Those are the organizations engaged in violence, and we appealed to them to embrace the goal of peace and renounce any acts that promote the current violence—those were for the ones that would be providing the resources and the funding.

Young

Now this was the opening of the campaign to persuade the Irish-American community to get with the peace process, the public campaign. Was that John’s idea? Was it yours, or something that emerged out of your discussions, the importance of bringing the Irish-American population along?

Kennedy

Well, that was something that just sort of emerged out of our discussions with John. He understood that the principal supporters of the IRA were the Americans. They got some support from Britain but their funding of this and their emotional attachment to this were strong, and if they were going to try a different route, they were going to have to have a different attitude here among Irish Americans. I think that this is something that really emerged out of our conversations with John at the time. I had talked with him over the period—in the last several years. How to do that was still sort of the issue or the question. 

We had Tip, and Hugh Carey, who had just become Governor of New York, so he had become a more prominent figure. It was a confluence of events that brought us together. We had Speaker O’Neill, Carey in New York, and Senator Pat Moynihan, who had gotten through a very tight primary actually, but was a very significant figure. We had the right politicians in the right place at the right time with the right message. This was a confluence of events that came together.

Young

One interesting thing about—

Kennedy

It was interesting with Moynihan; he only beat Bella Abzug by one percentage point. So he might not have even been in the Senate. You go back to domestic politics with this. It wasn’t just these people sort of hanging out there in very prominent positions. It was a confluence of events where they rose and were in extremely prominent positions. When Hume and his message came, we were able to get the leading Irish elected officials in a calmer position.

Young

So this might have helped him in his campaign. Do you think?

Kennedy

Well, I think he won in ’76. It would be worthwhile to just make a little note to check out when Moynihan was actually elected in that primary. I think he had it in ’76.

Young

Seventy-six, OK. He was a New York Senator with a constituency then. One of the things that emerged in our interviews in Ireland—It was said in a number of ways and at different times—this was on the part of the Irish Government—that we had neglected the importance of the Irish-American community. We had not paid enough attention to their importance in the issues. We just neglected them. We’d been hung up, so to speak.

Kennedy

Who is we?

Young

I think Garret said that.

Kennedy

That the Irish—

Young

Historically, the Irish had not, the Irish Government.

Kennedy

The Government said that?

Young

Yes, that they had not been paying attention.

Kennedy

I think that’s true. There had been very little activity by Irish Governments and Irish leaders and Irish representatives to be in touch with Irish politicians here, and that was true going back to I guess [Liam] Cosgrave’s speech in the Congress. Even when the visits came from Ireland, when the political leaders came, there was not the outreach, the contact, the meetings with these leaders.

Young

Well, that’s an important point for history.

Kennedy

That’s right.

Young

That this came out of your initiatives and John Hume’s initiatives, and so ’77 was the opening of that sort of campaign.

Kennedy

That’s it. It was rather interesting why the leaders of Ireland had not. [Eamon] de Valera was certainly alive when my brother visited Ireland but there was no real kind of a play towards involving, interesting, and engaging—just a satisfaction that the interested Irish Americans were going to support the IRA. I don’t think there’s any question that the dramatic shift and change are really attributed to Hume and the confluence of events that took place at this time.

Young

Now ’77 was also the year, wasn’t it, where the other side, that is, getting U.S. Government involvement began. It was kind of a crucial year.

Kennedy

The issuing of the statement, which we did on St. Patrick’s Day, was one way of indicating a different course to follow for Irish Americans but it needed to be followed up with policy actions and policy expression, and the place to do that was with the Democratic President, who was President Carter. We started on a personal campaign to see how we could involve him in a way that would also begin to express a viewpoint that had not been expressed by any previous American Government, and that was that America had an interest in a peaceful resolution in the North and how the North was eventually going to develop democratic institutions. 

We began our campaign with President Carter on this. This was after the March statement. I had met with John Hume at the Ireland Fund Dinner. There were, at that time, two Ireland funds, and it’s not worth spending a lot of time about the politics of the two of them but there was a lot of politics between them. One of them had really been set up after President [John Fitzgerald] Kennedy’s trip with the idea he’d discussed to try and develop support for a cultural exchange and support for the arts and music and culture and literature and to further those in both the United States and in Ireland. He had a fund that got started but there had also previously been one that had been started by Tony O’Reilly and some heavies, so at that time there were two different funds. They eventually came together. 

The fund that was run at this time by O’Reilly—both John Hume and I were going to speak at that fund. We talked about trying to persuade President Carter to appeal for a partnership in the North with a promise of substantial economic aid linked to accepting a political solution. This seemed an interesting proposal that I had talked to John Hume about, and that was if they could encourage the political parties to move towards some kind of negotiation with the idea that the United States would provide sizeable economic aid and assistance. It was sorely needed in the North. What had some particular appeal was the fact that it was being done by Carter—a Protestant, a southerner.

Young

Did you and John Hume discuss strategy for getting this out of the administration? Did he ever talk with Carter, or did you ever talk with Carter about it directly?

Kennedy

My conversations, and I believe John’s, were with Cy [Cyrus] Vance and a number of the people who were advising and guiding him at that time. I don’t think I ever got to—

Young

It’s interesting that on this first go ’round you were working with the seat of opposition in the U.S. Government to taking an independent stand from the British on this. That makes a lot of sense historically but it’s in great contrast to the later efforts where you tried to work directly with the White House. So I was just going to ask, Zbigniew Brzezinski was never part of this deal?

Kennedy

He was never a part. It was basically through the department. Carter had a very interesting group that was strongly committed on human rights. They had Mark Schneider, my former aide. He had four or five very leading, outstanding human rights people that he brought in and they worked very closely with Cy Vance. Vance was really—if you look historically—the go-to person on a range of different human rights issues. We had a good relationship personally with Vance, historically, a good personal relationship. You’ll see that this was the nerve center in the government. Really outstanding people. Most of them still continue their strong interest. We can get the names. They’re very important.

So we went in early. We were faced with the historical posture and position by both the United States and Great Britain, where the United States policy considered Northern Ireland issues to be an internal British affair. In the absence of a particular request from the British Government, it was always our government’s position that U.S. intervention would be inappropriate and counter-productive. That was the United States position. The British position was virtually identical to that, that this was their area, their zone, and that they didn’t welcome, want, or like the United States or anyone else interfering or commenting or offering suggestions or ideas about how to deal with it. Those were strongly rooted positions that had been part of the British posture.

Young

There’s a copy of a letter here, To the friends of Ireland, from Hodding Carter in the State Department. This is in late June of 1977, announcing the position that you have just spoken of.

Kennedy

Just before this letter, in early June, Tip and I and Pat Moynihan went to the State Department to present a proposal to Cy Vance. This was the proposal—if there was going to be progress made in terms of the two different traditions in the conflict, the United States was prepared to offer economic aid and assistance in order to try to move the conflict into the political sphere and political resolution. We had a proposal and we pointed out that it fit perfectly into President Carter’s commitment to a moral foreign policy and his strong commitment on human rights. 

Vance said he would take a look at it and he reviewed it. At that time, we talked about $100 million in reconstruction aid for Northern Ireland if a peace settlement could be reached. He wanted to run it by the British and the Irish embassies before sending it to the White House. The British balked at the idea of a Presidential statement and they considered the involvement of the Irish Republic in this to be an infringement on their sovereignty, but they were willing to accept language on a solution that the people of Northern Ireland as well as the governments of Great Britain and Ireland can support. 

On the economic aid proposals, the British resisted the idea and the Irish objected to it, believing that any funds shouldn’t just go to the North. Direct aid was watered down— encouraging private investment was substituted, which was a disappointment. But the core of the statement, the appeal to Irish Americans not to support the violence, the call for a just solution involving both parts of the community, and the promise of economic help linked to an agreement survived. We had that in early June and then we had a response, as you mentioned, Jim, from Hodding Carter on June 28 that said, If all the parties were to conclude the U.S. could play a useful role, we would naturally consider what we might do. However, none of the parties concerned has requested U.S. to take an active part. In the absence of such a request, the U.S. Government is convinced that U.S. intervention could be both inappropriate and counter-productive. In other words, we aren’t interested.

Young

So this was the building speaking?

Kennedy

This is the State Department.

Young

But then Cy Vance—that was not Cy Vance’s position?

Kennedy

No, that was not Cy Vance’s position. Vance, obviously, when he was touching base with the governments, the State Department became aware of all of this and that was the official line. Eventually, at the end of August, President Carter issued the statement and it was the first time an American President had spoken out for the human rights of the minority in Northern Ireland. We sent a note over to Carter saying that no other President in history had done as well by Ireland, and then I gave a talk in the Senate that we ought to have a more expansive program that would be a real program of economic aid and assistance.

Young

Is it correct to assume then that it was Cy Vance who turned the President toward the point of view of reconciliation and against the British position and the official State Department position?

Kennedy

I believe so. Later, on the Adams visa, we had direct emotional discussion, sort of an internal debate and give-and-take on this issue. That wasn’t true on this. Cy Vance understood what we were attempting to do and I think he had a broader view in terms of understanding the dimensions and the implications and the positive aspects that this could provide. He was empathetic and sympathetic and he was a very skilled diplomat. He was able to use his very considerable skills to try to buck the tradition of the State Department, the bureaucracy, on this, which was very strong and very deep.

Young

Carter once said, I could always count on the State Department to tell me when I was doing something wrong. He was referring to the State Department bureaucracy.

Kennedy

Although we haven’t got the papers here—I think we had something from that, which I mentioned before, that ’76 platform. We have Carter on record on this, which had been worked out, which I mentioned to you. Vance had some understanding and awareness of those negotiations. What was eventually worked out was not the strongest we had but it was in the mix. So this didn’t come out of the blue at them. They had an understanding, although they might not have been looking forward to it. They had made some comments or some statements or representations on this and at the time that we brought up this message, it was really a follow-on to the things that we had been doing in ’76 in the campaign.

Young

They couldn’t find any paper on the ’76. I’ve talked with Milton [Gwirtzman] about it. You weren’t directly involved with the platform committee.

Kennedy

On Ireland I was.

Young

You were. Who was helping you with that?

Kennedy

The person who would probably know about that is Bruce Morrison. I saw Bruce. He’s in the markups on the pensions bill for some reason—oh, on immigration, excuse me—I would see him in the back of the room. I think it would be very easy to find out.

Young

Yes, because—you reminded me, that’s right. There was preparatory work before Carter was inaugurated, by putting the stuff into the platform, getting an Irish plank in the platform.

Kennedy

If you want, we can get after Bruce, Jim, so if you make a note on it to remind me.

Young

Bruce Morrison. His name is salted through the briefing book, actually. 

Kennedy

One other of the statements that the Friends had that was really very interesting and I thought was important is that we, in one of these statements, we listed all of the Protestants, Northern Irish, all of the American Presidents who had Protestant ancestry and the contributions they made to the United States so that we were giving recognition on this. We found out subsequently on our trip to Northern Ireland that a number of the officials had taken some note of that as a way of trying to begin to build some bridges to the other community.

Young

Also I would think to deflect any notion that this was a Catholic thing exclusively.

Kennedy

That’s right. Let me just think if there’s anything else.

Young

Have you got the article there by [Edward John] Holland?

Kennedy

Yes. He’s got some descriptions in here about how the President’s statement was altered and changed in the second paragraph. The final text of a solution involving the British and the two communities in Northern Ireland was changed to a solution that the people in Northern Ireland as well as the government of Great Britain again support. So they altered and—

Young

And they watered down the economic.

Kennedy

Then the Dublin government objected to the concept of the aid. They wanted just private investments. At that stage it looked uncompromising and it looked like the State Department was going to be able to sink that. I guess Ambassador [Peter] Jay was able to give us some boost in this to keep it moving, to keep it on track.

Young

That surprised me to hear about the British Ambassador not digging his heels in.

Kennedy

I think the significance of the Presidential statement on Northern Ireland, and one that was accepted both by the British and the Irish, is that they’ve established publicly the United States now has an official interest in Northern Ireland and a continuing role in determining what happens there. That’s the importance or the significance of the action by the President of the United States. So you had the action by the Four Horsemen about the beginning of the alteration and change in terms of the Irish public opinion on this. Secondly, you had the statement from the President of the United States putting us firmly on line in terms of the interest that Americans have in the solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. 

Those are two very important, significant, and dramatic alterations and changes in terms of the United States policy towards Northern Ireland, towards the resolution of the conflict, which still had other steps to go, but they certainly established the groundwork on which we could start to build the additional kinds of progress that were necessary.

Young

It was a plan. It looks very methodical when you look back, and I’m sure it was at the time. Here are the two things we have to get done to move the process forward.

Kennedy

Yes, yes.

Young

Didn’t you introduce, or weren’t you involved in introducing, some economic assistance legislation in Congress after it was watered down, after the Carter statement?

Kennedy

His statement was made at the end of August and I spoke in early September, welcoming the statement, and talked about the assistance that was going to be necessary. I said [reading]: The assistance could take a variety of forms, including not only direct appropriations by Congress under the foreign aid program but also loan guarantees, other incentives and subsidies for U.S. firms to invest in order to provide needed jobs for the people there. My hope is that once a peaceful settlement is reached, the United States will undertake a Marshall-type program of assistance to heal the wounds of the conflict that will benefit the people of the North, Protestants and Catholic alike, and I think there will be broad support for the assistance of jobs and other assistance. So it was multidimensional.

Young

That eventually resulted in the Hillsborough Agreement, I think.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

This was another thing that from the people in Ireland we talked with in the government—that they construed some kind of promise of economic assistance once the peace process moved forward. Two or three, Garret and others, said this proved to us that the United States was holding to its word for economic assistance. They put great stress on that, especially Al Reynolds, looking back on the crucial importance of economic assistance to the success of the enterprise. From their point of view that was very important.

Kennedy

That was very important. This was an extra or a newer kind of dimension where the United States had not been before, such as on the Sunningdale Agreement, which had been proposed earlier, and which the Unionists shot down. What they showed was that if there wasn’t going to be an extra dimension to these kinds of understandings, they just weren’t going to work. That is what the leaders, Hume and FitzGerald and others, had gone through, what had been a part of both the process and understanding of what was going on in the North. They understood and they knew they needed this extra dimension, which was the United States’ involvement. And also, in an important way, to have the Irish Government and the British more involved.

Young

So it turned into a rather comprehensive approach.

Kennedy

A framework. They set up the framework on this issue. That was what had been established. Now you’ve got this framework established. We’ve got this other dimension. OK, good. 

All right, do you want to take just a quick break here?

Young

Sure. We might talk about Bill Faulk if you want, or we can go to Reagan, or wherever you want to go next.

[BREAK]

Young

It’s going to be an oral history like there was never an oral history before. It’s very nice to have them here.

Kennedy

Authenticity.

Young

Especially since one of them is an author.

Kennedy

That’s right. I meant to show you that book. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. I’ve just gotten some books I was writing for my colleagues actually over there. Have you seen the book on Splash? [Kennedy’s dog Splash is featured in the Senator’s book, My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington, D.C.]

Young

Last time I was here you showed us the book. Is it by Splash?

Kennedy

Yes, Splash.

Young

Then you had the galleys.

Kennedy

Oh, the other book. It’s going to come out from Viking.

Young

Viking. When is it going to be out?

Kennedy

That’s going to be on April 25.

Young

Was I right in thinking that some of your talk at the Center—

Kennedy

The second one, the second book.

Young

I thought so.

Kennedy

That’s the thematic, that’s sort of the first chapter. That’s how we did it then, and are we going to be able to do it now—a framework of some of the—

Young

I think that’s a very powerful way to do it.

Kennedy

We’ve been there; we’ve done it. I mean it wasn’t—I got to that point and I had another talk in there that was current to what’s happening, Medicaid and some of the other stuff, but it didn’t seem to be for the group that was there.

Young

Well, you gave the big picture.

Kennedy

The bigger picture is something that most of the people aren’t thinking about. They don’t realize how much we have done. I think we were the revolutionary society. You look at—India has been a democracy. They still have the Dalits. That’s 140 million people there who still are cleaning sewers and they’ve never emerged out. I mean, we’ve done it on race; we’ve done it on gender; we’ve done it on disability. We’re halfway there in terms of people who are gay—you know, that’s a generational thing the next generation’s going to do. We did it on immigration. It’s been remarkable, historical. There won’t be a country in the world that has ever made the progress that we’ve made in non-violent ways on that part. We had to confront it at some time and we did, but then the question is, are we going to deal with the new challenge, which is globalization?

Young

I think what will be very important in your book and in the public message is to define what those new challenges are.

Kennedy

Yes, that’s right.

Young

I don’t think there is a clear perception. I mean, it’s terrorism, it’s this, it’s that, it’s something else, but there isn’t a conception of the overall picture that people have of what’s happening, how the world has really changed and how we can connect with that. That’s an extremely important thing. Otherwise, people look backward and it’s just not the way it used to be—but to have some confidence. You get no help from the current administration in thinking about the large picture. I think that’s just very important for you to do.

Kennedy

Conceptually, that’s what we’re trying—I have to spend a little time in getting back—I’ve gotten away from it, you know—to have a chance to get back into it. I’m going to do Meet the Press on that Sunday.

Young

This coming Sunday?

Kennedy

No. This coming one I’m going to do Face the Nation, but it’s going to be on immigration because we’re going to do that immigration bill markup. The Senate is going to be debating that immigration bill so I’m going to do that, but they’ll get into other stuff.

Young

Well, you did get into immigration.

Kennedy

Yes, they probably got a little bit more than they were looking for, but it’s rather interesting, the dimensions of that kind of thing.

Young

It is. I heard an awful lot of comment afterwards about your Senate speech.

Kennedy

Yes, conceptually about how they’re going to do it because everybody’s looking at little bits and pieces on this thing.

Young

Very few, I think, from the consumer point of view, of consuming of news. There’s a real lack of guidance of people getting that picture about immigration. What they hear about is this fight, or that fight.

Kennedy

Lou Dobbs, evidently they get Lou Dobbs down there. He’s just so wrong on it.

Young

It’s sort of conceptual pollution so that people can’t get a picture. Presidents used to give that picture.

Kennedy

Yes. They’re the ones who are supposed to be doing it and they’re the ones who have the luxury to be able to look down the road and get the best people, the task forces, persuading the people. The great Senators can’t because for the most part we’re firemen. We’re putting out fires, you know. The Government lost its engine, and I’ve got to be doing the pension issue here now. So I spend all my time getting geared up on that or the immigration issue. I’ll get geared up for that.

The idea that you’re looking and have the chance to look further on out is a very limited kind of capability that most people don’t have—I mean, we do a fair amount of that but it’s something that’s not generally done and that’s what the executive branch is supposed to be doing. If they don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.

Young

Well, maybe not, but it takes a new sort of campaign to get public understanding of this. It’s very discouraging to be on the receiving end of all this in terms of information.

Kennedy

I don’t know what the programming is down in New Orleans, down in Louisiana. They don’t get Meet the Press. They don’t get Face the Nation. They just get Fox. Rush Limbaugh, they get that part. They don’t get the other things. They don’t get the New York Times. It’s not distributed down there. That’s what they get and it’s just unbelievable. It’s not good.

Young

Now we have a new President, Ronald Reagan, after Carter, who starts out apparently by saying very early on in his campaign, We don’t want to be sticking our nose in other people’s business. That was the response to Ireland, so it’s a new ballgame with the President now. How is this dealt with?

Kennedy

Well, I had a decent personal relationship with President Reagan. I was not overly involved but I had a good relationship with him. I was on an arms control observation group and worked actually with [Brent] Scowcroft and others on some of the arms control issues, and he was aware of that. He was easy to have a good relationship with. Fairly early during the Reagan period, I spoke at a university out on Long Island that has done a series of conferences on different Presidents.

Young

Hofstra.

Kennedy

Hofstra, which had just become and is now both nationally and internationally recognized as a very quality type of conference. They asked me to speak and I spoke up there about Ronald Reagan. I could differ with him but he had restored a sense of America’s confidence in itself and had also given it a sense of purpose again. He had restored the institution of the Presidency, even though you could differ with him on the issues. 

I was looking for openings during his administration for the Irish connection. It all basically starts with looking for people who are working within the administration to find out who in the administration has the Irish contract, so to speak. We found out fairly soon in the Reagan administration, a fellow by the name of Clark. I think he was originally in the State Department.

Young

He started out under [Alexander] Haig. Then he became National Security Advisor.

Kennedy

Then he went to National Security.

Young

And then he went to the Department of Interior. So he was a Reagan personal friend.

Kennedy

But that’s very useful and helpful. I probably met with him two or three times just about Ireland and about where we had been, where we were now, where we hoped to go. I said this was something that we were very hopeful that we could get the President involved in. I can remember we started the Speaker’s lunch during this period of time. O’Neill would have the President over for lunch and invite limited members of the Congress too. It didn’t have outside people at that time.

Young

This was St. Patrick’s Day?

Kennedy

The Speaker’s lunch on St. Patrick’s Day. The first one was when President Reagan came. I’d indicated to the White House that I’d like to talk to the President a little bit about Ireland at that event and I was told very clearly that he did not want to get into any substance whatsoever. He wanted to tell stories and hear stories from the members, but he did not want to get into any substance on Ireland. And he did not. He told a couple of stories, Hollywood type stories, gentle stories, kind of amusing. Tip told a couple of Irish stories and then Tip called on different members in the room to recount an Irish story or an Irish visit or an Irish connection. He called on people around the room and that’s how the lunch went. Actually, the President had a good time at the lunch, a surprisingly good time we heard afterwards—he was relaxed and he sort of enjoyed it. 

That was the beginning of these St. Patrick’s Day lunches, which eventually developed—I was at the last one—it’s 2006 now. We were at the last one ten days ago with Dennis Hastert, Bertie Ahern—this was his 9th—and President [George Walker] Bush. The President spoke off the cuff very warmly and with great ease, and Bertie Ahern talked all about the Irish progress and about also being sympathetic to Irish immigration reform, and the President sort of looked over at me and waved. 

What I had mentioned to John Hume and to Tip is that we should institutionalize this lunch and expect the Irish Prime Minister to come over, and that we ought to have the coordinated Ireland Fund Dinner the night before so that the Prime Minister could be there for it, which adds an additional dimension. Then in the morning, the Irish Prime Minister ought to have a conference at the Hay-Adams Hotel with his top economic development people and the leading contributors and businessmen who might be interested in doing business in Ireland, and give them a run-out about the advantages of development both in the South and the North, but giving particular emphasis to the North. You could get the top Irish-American businessmen. There are so many Irish-American businessmen, the heads of many corporations. It’s very significant.

Then you-d have a reception at the White House where they would be able to get invited for the evening. So they would have a dinner to go to for the Irish Fund. They’d have an economic conference and then they’d also be able to go to the dinner—and put this in a package. Doing so would elevate the nature of the debate on Irish policy and politics, and involvement of the United States. Today they do the dinner and they do the lunch and they have the shamrock but they don’t do the conference. Under President [William Jefferson] Clinton they did the receptions where all of the principals who would eventually be involved in the Good Friday Agreement would come over and most of them would come to the lunch, then they would go to the dinner, and then they’d go to the President’s reception.

Young

This is a two-day event?

Kennedy

Two-day event. It’s basically a 36-hour event. President Clinton was regular in terms of bringing people over when he got started in this process—bringing the leadership into these lunches. They had all the parties and also included them at the reception in the White House. Now they don’t do that at the present time.

Young

Did they do it in Reagan’s time?

Kennedy

In Reagan’s time they didn’t do the reception in the evening. You had the presentation of shamrocks from Ireland to the President, and they had coffee then and they had a selected list of people, but it wasn’t the political operatives who were the heart of the political process.

Young

And it didn’t turn into that?

Kennedy

Not at all.

Young

Who was at the very first one with Reagan? Was there anybody from Ireland there?

Kennedy

I’m sure the Irish Ambassador. I can’t recall whether the Prime Minster was there. I assume he was but I can’t tell. Tip just told stories and it was a very interactive, lively kind of event—I got called on. I can’t remember the stories I told about my brother and his trip there—you know, the difference between when he went there as a Congressman and hitchhiked around, and then he went there as a President, and some other things. 

That got established and it wasn’t in the Speaker’s room; it was in another room downstairs. It was in a not enormously elegant room and then it was eventually moved up—and it was corned beef and cabbage during that time. Now they’re having duck and wine. Then they had beer and corned beef and cabbage. That was the fare during Tip’s time. 

But it’s the idea of the continuity of this. I had mentioned to the Prime Minister about doing the business aspects of it. I think they could have done it exceedingly well, but it never got moving. What happened also is they combined the Ireland Fund into one event so that made it easier. For the most part, the Ireland Fund during the time of Clinton was sort of fifty-fifty Republican–Democrat. Now it’s 95 percent Republican, the Ireland Fund Dinner. So that was sort of the framework. The interesting part of this under Reagan is that Clark took an interest in Ireland. He traveled to Ireland himself. I think he’s got a place in Ireland.

Young

Yes, he does.

Kennedy

He has. I don’t know when he got it, whether it was during this or after it, but he got a place. He became interested. I never had a feeling that he was interested at all when he came. We developed a good relationship and no matter where he went in the government—I knew he moved to the NSC [National Security Council] and then moved out. I didn’t know he’d gone over to Interior—he was the Irish person. He was the go-to person on Ireland. At the time when we had the initial Downing Street Declaration, the offer was to try and see [John] Major and Reynolds, wasn’t it? That was just before Thatcher. Then Thatcher came over here and Clark was helpful in encouraging her not to be as critical as she had been.

Young

I’m not sure but I think the Downing Street Declaration was with Major and Al Reynolds.

Kennedy

I’ve got it someplace. This is it—While the December 15th joint declaration of Prime Minister Major and Taoiseach, Albert had offered all-party talks. So that’s December 15th. 

Young

The year?

Kennedy

This is ’92. It wouldn’t be Reagan.

Young

No, that came after but there was an agreement. Thatcher relented, and Reagan, I guess through Clark, was supposed to have softened her a bit on Ireland, enough to warrant a statement that self-determination was a principle she could go with. That was part of the agreement. I’m assuming Reagan came to that position during his second term. I’m assuming he came to that position because of the work that Bill Clark had been doing.

Kennedy

I think that’s true.

Young

And then he made a visit to Ireland in his second term. I don’t have any information about that. We interviewed Bill Clark for the Reagan project and I’ll talk to him about this.

Kennedy

Good.

Young

I think that’s an important little piece of the story.

Kennedy

Yes, I do too.

Young

Because without him, I don’t know—it’s a question about what would have happened with the Reagan administration, with nobody to move him off of his previous position on that. So throughout his administration, do you remember Bill Clark being at those lunches?

Kennedy

I remember meeting him, being with him and talking with him. I imagine he was. I think he was. 

Young

Sean was Ambassador during some of this period and I think he worked a lot with Bill Clark.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

They did a genealogy on Reagan to find his Irish connections and it was not until the second term, Sean said, that he recognized those Irish connections and then took a trip to Ireland. In any event, before we get to Clinton, did anything happen under [George H. W.] Bush 41? It’s kind of a blank. There’s nothing.

Kennedy

Not to my recollection. I can give Trina [Vargo] a ring and find out. You know, you had Garret FitzGerald’s work, and that was an announcement that he had—

Young

Yes, that was during Reagan. Here are your notes on his visit to Hyannis Port.

Kennedy

Yes, I’ve seen those.

Young

He had made an earlier visit as Foreign Minister and you have some notes on that but this is also the period at which there’s that salty comment by Tip O’Neill, when FitzGerald comes up to the lunch or some meeting on Capitol Hill and Tip O’Neill is saying well, where does he stand on economic assistance—asking FitzGerald—and FitzGerald is saying—

Kennedy

Oh, you’re asking how the President—

Young

Tip was really, Cut the B.S. You know, What’s going on here? So apparently FitzGerald was then very much involved in the process—considerably. Maybe that’s where it was. He would visit Reagan. I think he visited Reagan twice.

I don’t see a lot of Ted Kennedy in the Reagan years. You’re behind the scenes. You’re working with the process but you don’t appear much in the public realm.

Kennedy

No. I think that’s probably true.

Young

Apparently that process is continued. There are a lot of events in Ireland during this period of time that are moving things up and then back. Two steps forward, one step back. Then, we come to Clinton. Do you want to proceed with the Clinton stuff?

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

Clinton had already made a statement, apparently, during his campaign—but maybe there’s more on this that you want to note before we go into that.

Kennedy

Well, in terms of the earlier campaign, I think Carter had said some things. I don’t know whether he said it, but he had agreed to some things.

Young

Did that plank remain in the platform?

Kennedy

Yes—that if we won he was going to send an envoy. Whether that was in the platform, I can’t remember. In any event, he had indicated that we were going to take an interest. I thought we had the platform at some time. Did we have the platform the last time we talked? We didn’t have it. We still haven’t been able to get it?

Young

I don’t have it.

Kennedy

OK. Well, we ought to make a note to try, because I’m sure we can get that. It’s ’76, the Democratic platform on Ireland.

Young

You can track it through Kyle [Lascurettes] to see similar language in the subsequent platforms.

Kennedy

So President Clinton is elected and we are in a situation in ’92 with a new administration and someone that we feel that we can work with on many different issues. There is certainly the hope that we’re going to be able to work with President Clinton on the Irish issue. He is surrounded by people that we know and who are empathetic, sympathetic to what we’d been trying to do in Northern Ireland. So we’re trying to figure out the best ways that we can move the whole process forward in terms of getting a cease-fire and governmental institutions up and functioning and working.

Young

Nancy Soderberg was in his campaign, I believe.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

And then became his NSC person with an Ireland brief.

Kennedy

That’s right.

Young

And Trina Vargo then joined you. So there was a substantial network by then built to deal with these questions reaching into the White House itself.

Kennedy

We’ve got now a situation where Adams was head of Sinn Fein and the leading voice for policy for the IRA. He and John Hume had issued a joint statement designed to inaugurate a peace process in April of 1993. While the December 15 joint declaration by Major and Reynolds had offered all-party talks if all agreed to a cease-fire, Adams hadn’t renounced violence and there was no IRA cease-fire, and neither Sinn Fein nor the IRA had accepted the joint declaration. Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher so the Downing Street Declaration had to be in this period of time. This is December 15, 1993.

Young

Al Reynolds had become Prime Minster and was engaged in private talks with John Major on this. The British Government, it subsequently turned out, had been also talking with Gerry Adams during this period secretly, without acknowledgement. John Hume and Gerry Adams had opened a dialogue back in the late ’80s, looking to getting together on a political solution, renouncing violence and so on. This was all going on in the ’80s and when Clinton came it was brought to a head by the visa issue.

Kennedy

They had a very interesting priest, Father [Alec] Reid, who had worked at the grassroots level with a number of the IRA people and Sinn Fein people, and I think Hume had worked with him. There was a very important kind of outreach by a number of the members of the clergy, favorite pastors of people who had been involved and active, continuing ongoing dialogue, debate, appeal to consciousness that were very important in terms of altering and changing viewpoints on this. So you had this multi-dimension aspect about political issues, and it had religious, social, and family kinds of influences.

Young

Father Reid was also close to the IRA so he had to take a very low-key role, but he was an important link to the IRA for John Hume, in addition John Hume’s talks with Gerry Adams. Alec Reid was in the picture very much earlier.

Kennedy

As you point out, his work with Hume on this gave Hume the real sense that this was possible. The Hume philosophy of non-violence and respect for traditions is deeply rooted in him, but there was no question that there was a several-year period of a lot of quiet conversations and activities and appeals to important leaders for an opportunity for a change and new direction, and I think that’s a feature. I don’t know whether we’ll ever know what really went on, but that was mentioned to me by several of the parties as an understanding of the change in attitude by Sinn Fein and the IRA. 

We’re talking 1992, the election, then we’re talking 1993. My sister had been appointed Ambassador. We’ve gone over that. Others had been interested in it but we got a head of steam going for Jean. She was delighted with the chance. I think President Clinton was sort of amused about the whole process, and off she went and did a spectacular job.

Young

He didn’t give you any problem on that?

Kennedy

No. There were others: Brian Donnelly, who had a lot of contact with the Irish, and there were others who were interested in it, but I fought my political battle.

Young

Senator, hadn’t it been the case, just looking back a moment in history, that the people that the United States sent to Ireland as Ambassadors were not—there were some exceptions, but they were not important people in terms of a link with Ireland, were they?

Kennedy

They generally cared more about horses than they did anything else, horses and their relationship with their President. President Carter, though, when he appointed Bill Shannon, had made a very important difference.

Young

Did you have anything to do with that appointment?

Kennedy

No. I was a supporter of his at the end. At the beginning—I can’t remember who was out and interested in it. He was in the last three, and then I was a supporter of Bill’s, but in the very beginning I can’t remember who was up for it but in the last three, the President knew what they wanted and they got it, and Shannon did a spectacular job. He was a good friend. As you know, we worked with him.

Young

I meant to bring you a photograph—you would be amused by it, I think—from Garret FitzGerald’s book. There’s a photograph of Garret, President Reagan and the key figures, and there’s somebody whom you see only this much of and it’s the woman that Reagan appointed Ambassador to Ireland after she bombed out at the Labor Department or something. Garret has in the note that the person who was deliberately obscured in the photograph is the Ambassador to Ireland.

Kennedy

So there was a different kind of tone under President Clinton. He was very good on it, and off Jean went. It was Christmas time of 1993 and really at sort of the last moment, Vicki [Reggie Kennedy] and I decided to go over to Dublin and spend New Year’s Eve with my sister. She had lost her husband Steve [Stephen E. Smith] the year before and this was obviously a difficult time, and it was really a decision that was made at the end. We had expected it to be for a few days and basically to be a time catching up with her and not to be involved in the policy issues or questions at any time, but that changed very dramatically when we arrived in Dublin. A series of meetings were set up that changed certainly my thinking and my view and approach to the whole issue of both Adams and Sinn Fein.

Young

You were inclined to be opposed at that time.

Kennedy

The issue now that we’re talking about is the question about a visa for Gerry Adams, who was the leader of Sinn Fein, and whether he ought to be permitted to come to the United States. Initially, I didn’t think he would be allowed to come to the United States. We’ll come down the road a little bit when we get the question about the particular conference, but the issue about whether he ought to be able to come to the United States and be permitted to enter the United States was of some attention but not a very front and center issue. It was more so, obviously, with the Irish community and one that I thought was pretty well settled that he wasn’t going to come. I probably didn’t think he should come. I hadn’t given it a great deal of thought, but that was sort of a standard position that most of the Irish members of Congress had. 

When I had arrived there in Ireland—I’ve seen that schedule but I don’t remember it being quite that way. I remember the schedule of arriving there and going down for a while and my sister mentioning to me that there was a chance that morning to see Reynolds, which I thought I did that first morning. After seeing Reynolds, I had lunch with Tim Pat Coogan for an hour-and-a-half or two hours at his place. That evening my sister had a series of people who were coming over and I think Hume came down. There’s even a possibility that Father Reid came down, and Reynolds happened to come over. It was a group of about ten people who were there and I remember going in little groups and talking to little groups.

Young

This was at Jean’s house?

Kennedy

Jean’s house. It was an emergence into this whole issue in a very dramatic way. I remember another day we went to the Abbey that’s just half an hour from Jean’s and had lunch with the Monsignor where they train most of the priests. It’s enormously interesting. We had lunch with probably four or five of their leading philosophers and theologians and it was just enormously interesting and dramatic. They talked about the history of the IRA and the philosophy, and how they looked at some of the changes, the mood and atmosphere and the changes that were taking place they felt in Ireland. It wasn’t a pitch to go out there so that they were going to pitch me on it—but I was now triggered into thinking about this and looking at this.

Young

Was that Father Reid’s order?

Kennedy

No, I don’t think it is. This is where they train. It’s a big, big abbey where they train the priests about 35 minutes from Dublin. There were other meetings as well. I’ll give one funny story about it. We went up to Charlie Haughey’s house for dinner. He has a lovely, lovely home. His wife is marvelous. He’s got three daughters who are more breathtakingly beautiful than the others and they all sing. It’s an unbelievable kind of a session that you have. We sat down at the dinner table, which was large and circular—he said it was the largest round table in Ireland or something. This friend of Jean’s, [Thomas] Michael Jopling, a member of Parliament, was there. A lady was sitting next to Charlie, and then Jopling, and then it went around. They separated at the end of dinner and we were sitting there. 

Michael Jopling is a very bright, smart person and was the Secretary of Agriculture, and he said to Charlie, You know, if I could just ask you, Mr. Taoiseach, and I don’t want to really impose. I know you’ve answered this question so many times but so many of us are so incredibly challenged about how we’re going to deal with all of these challenges in Northern Ireland. We have so many military issues, cultural issues, religious issues. We’ve got these tensions, which have gone on for 400 years. We’re looking at the historical context of this. We’re looking for practical political insights. We have to know this issue and I’m wondering if you might just trace—I know it will take a little time but if you’d be good enough, since we have 20 minutes or so here, I wonder if you’d take a few minutes to go back in terms of your deep understanding of the history and the traditions and sort of spell out or map out a little bit of the background and the history and the trends and the movements that can help advantage us and move us towards a just solution. 

Charlie just reached into his soup and he pulled up and he leaned over to Jopling and said, Brits, out. And then went back in again and said, Are you all taken care of at the other end of the table? [laughter]

Young

Haughey was what, at the time? Was he in the government?

Kennedy

I think he had been—

Young

Earlier.

Kennedy

And later too. He had been Attorney General.

Young

He had been Prime Minister.

Kennedy

He came back in after that.

Young

He was the one who reassigned Sean Donlon when he was Prime Minster.

Kennedy

That’s right.

Young

That was way back.

Kennedy

In any event, in the conversations that I had with Reynolds, who was really the most powerful, convincing, insightful, historic and persuasive, he talked about a new day that was possible and that would happen if he had the chance to get Adams a visa. He thought it would have an impact on the IRA and would have an impact on moving the whole process forward and that he, as the Prime Minister, had good access to all the Irish intelligence. He had good access to all the British intelligence. And he was satisfied that the conversations that had taken place with John Hume and Adams. Adams was following those up and had given John Hume the assurances that there would not be more violence, although they hadn’t, I guess, announced it at the time that there wouldn’t be any more violence. 

He showed me some letters from people from the North, who were Unionists and very conservative, about how we have to break out of this whole spell that they’re under. He just had an enormously well thought out, well presented, powerful, convincing argument about the importance of having Adams get a visa and that this offered the best hope and opportunity for non-violent progress in the North.

Young

Hume had of course recommended this. It was his assessment that Adams was persuadable. So he had already had that view. Reynolds came to that view, my impression is, on his own. He probably talked with Hume and got Hume’s reading, but my impression from hearing Reynolds’ account of this was a very careful effort to seek out, use intelligence and use many sources of information to read Gerry Adams and the possibility that he could be moved if something were given to him, some recognition, and it was turned toward politics. That was the visa issue. You said just now that it made a very convincing case. I think this was something he gave a great deal of thought and analysis to. Is this worth a chance to do it? And it was Adams’ application for a visa that happened to precipitate this issue. I don’t know.

Kennedy

There had always been the issue about whether giving Adams a visa—whether this was going to be something that was going to be out there. That always lurked. He hadn’t applied. You also had Reynolds, who had talked to Major in terms of all-party talks. He had sort of a vested interest, which I think was very bold. 

He is not known—I don’t think Reynolds was—as a figure who was an enormously original thinker in this whole area of public policy. He sort of came to this. He was recognized as a rather cautious politician and political figure. I was very struck by this because I’m not sure quite what I had thought. I had just had general conversations with him. As I said, we had not planned to go to Ireland to have policy conversations, but this changed the whole framework of the trip in a very startling way for me. I left Ireland completely convinced that Adams should be able to get a visa. 

Now, there were a number of things. I had not talked to John Hume. I might have talked to him before going over but I don’t have a clear recollection. I knew I had to talk to him because an awful lot of the information I was getting was coming from my sister Jean, who talked to John a good deal and represented what he had said to her. When I returned in very early January we got the sad news that Tip O’Neill had died. I knew that John Hume would be coming and I’d have an opportunity to talk with him at some length, which I did. After the funeral, John and I spent about three hours at Locke-Ober’s in Boston talking about this issue. 

The issue had come to a head due to the invitation that had been issued to Adams by Bill Flynn and Niall O’Dowd’s organization to address a meeting in New York at the end of the month. John told us there was a split in the IRA of whether to accept the joint declaration and that a visa for Adams would help carry the internal debate. He made a very powerful case about the importance of moving the peace process forward, and said this was a great opportunity to do that. I found that he was as convincing as Reynolds had been. It appeared to me that the potential for good greatly outweighed the potential for embarrassment, where Adams received the visa and we get no more forward movement. This was certainly a risk for peace that was worthwhile taking.

Young

Did you come back from Ireland already convinced or leaning?

Kennedy

Yes, I was convinced. I was absolutely convinced. All the parts fell into place. You had a very powerful presentation from the Prime Minister with all of the intelligence and the policing and information. Then you had the historical issue—why this thing made sense—from Tim Pat Coogan. It was looked at by him, and he had written the history of the IRA movement and the Sinn Fein movement. 

Young

I was going to ask you about Tim Pat Coogan—what he talked to you about.

Kennedy

I remember having lunch with him, and I’m talking to him in this general way. He lives in a little house just outside of Dublin. There were just the two of us at lunchtime and we had sort of a funny lunch. I can’t even remember what it was, not that I was all that hungry. It was just an artichoke and a bread and a pear, or a peach or something. It was just something funny. What was interesting of course was his whole take on it. 

I had asked Reynolds whether I could talk with him about this and he said yes. I asked him respectfully, but he said that it was fine and so I went back and went over all the conversations with Reynolds. He added dimensions to the conversations and talked about the pressures that were happening in the IRA and how people were getting older and why they might be that way—the ones who might be more sympathetic to it and how they make decisions and what their reactions might be with Adams and that sort of thing. It was like understanding and looking at it from some of the IRA’s point of view. He was certainly supportive of Reynolds, but it wasn’t the startling kind of a presentation. He wasn’t a forceful advocate for it but supportive of it.

Young

But he was a good source about something inside.

Kennedy

Just what was inside, what was happening, the changes and why the visa might make some sense in terms of movement of the organization, and the historical context—why today rather than before, all of which was very interesting. I talked to Father Reid that evening and he talked about the cultural family traditions, why he thought a lot of the leaders were rethinking things, and the difficulty that they had in going to the roots. All those pieces were falling into the same kind of pattern.

Young

Had Jean recently been convinced? Was she listening still?

Kennedy

She was convinced about it. She had made her mind up, but she hadn’t talked to me before this trip. I hadn’t talked to her about it before the trip. Now we’re back to the dinner with John Hume in Boston. We have the invitation that had been issued to Adams by Flynn and O’Dowd to speak in New York at the end of the month. As I remember, it was just for the event. That’s what they were looking for, a visa for the event. The question then was going to come down to what would be the administration’s answer. I decided that we’d try and make a full court press and try to obtain a visa for that event. 

The first thing we did was prepare a letter to President Clinton and tried to get as many co-signers as we could. The letter spelled out the arguments for the visa as critical to the peace process. This would be a really important contribution to that. And then we talked about the existing Hume–Adams dialogue, the British Government contacts, the IRA, the joint declaration. Then, the realities. This was a one-time proposition and we ought to take the chance, the risk for peace. There were other provisions in there, too, other arguments in there, too, and we anticipated that the British would be opposed to the visa. We got a number of signatures. We led off with the principal Irish in Congress: Moynihan, [Christopher] Dodd, and then [George J.] Mitchell, the Democratic Leader, [Claiborne] Pell from Foreign Relations, [William] Bradley. Fifty members of Congress signed on.

Young

[Thomas] Foley didn’t.

Kennedy

No. I remember very clearly talking to Tom Foley from Cape Cod. I remember that he was down in Nassau. I had difficulty reaching him. Then I got him on the phone. I gave him a whole pitch on the issue and he said, I’m sorry, but I just can’t be with you on this thing. I’m opposed to this. I think we’re going to get hoodwinked on this thing and I’m strongly opposed to it. I have a great relationship with Tom now. This was the only time that I had ever had any difference with him, but it was deep-seated and strong, and he just thought that the visa made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I found out subsequently that as soon as he hung up with me he called the National Security Council to sink this.

Young

And that was [Samuel] Sandy Berger?

Kennedy

Who he talked to I don’t know, but I understand he called the NSC. 

Young

So he weighed in.

Kennedy

He weighed in. He got through to whoever it was because he was the House Majority Leader. He was very clear, very powerful, and listed the reasons for it. I don’t know whether—I think he sent a note on it. I’m not sure about that.

Young

Do you recall whether one of his reasons was, whether the reservation was that something—a bombing might happen over there while he was here, or he might make a statement here that was unhelpful? Or was he just against it in principle?

Kennedy

Well, he was against it in principle. He didn’t think that Adams had done enough to renounce violence and he thought we could be embarrassed by it. If we all signed on and then he did something we’d feel very bad about, and the President would be embarrassed by it. He was not satisfied that Adams was in a position to deserve it. That had been the historic position that I once had, that he was expressing, and that Moynihan and the rest of us had. There were groups that were for it, such as NORAID, and some others, maybe a couple of House members, but the Senate Irish Americans had been virtually unanimous against it. So I understood that’s where they were coming from, and he kept after it.

Young

Did he go public?

Kennedy

It was understood that he was against it. I don’t know whether it was in the newspapers or not, but all of us understood that he was strongly against it. He was the most prominent, significant figure strongly against it. When we found out that he was against it and that we were going to have trouble with the British Government on this, we knew that it was going to be an uphill battle. 

The State Department was strongly against it, so you had the British Government and the State Department strongly against it, a prominent Irish Catholic Leader in the House strongly against it. This was going to be difficult to turn around. The British Embassy was using all its influence to keep Adams out. They resented Congressional interference, when American policy had long deferred to their views. They still had that traditional position and they feared that Adams would be able to rouse his own constituencies here. The State Department weighed in strongly against it. I think my sister Jean indicated when she sent the cable for it that some of her professional staff were against it.

Young

She was later reprimanded by Warren Christopher—I don’t know that this is in the briefing book—for something she said, I think, to some of the senior staff there who opposed her position. Do you know anything about that?

Kennedy

No.

Young

It sounded like a pro forma thing but it does indicate the hold of the British position in the State Department.

Kennedy

She went up to Belfast and they were on her tail for going up there. They had one all-Irish organization and that was the Special Olympics, and they had special Olympians from the North and the South and they all marched together. It was the one unit. She could go up and do that and try and see other people. She couldn’t even see the women’s organizers. She couldn’t see other people interested in the arts who were going to do performances down in the South. It was a very rigid kind of posture and position. 

So you had the British Embassy and the State Department against it. The FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] had a dossier on Adams and his terrorist connections, and it influenced the Justice Department. By January 25 our office was being advised by Nancy Soderberg, who was at the NSC, that the White House was leaning against the visa and we’d have to weigh in politically and not just substantively on this, and that’s what we did. We had a full court press with Pat [Patrick] Griffin, who was the head of the White House Legislative Liaison. There are White House Liaisons and White House Liaisons, but this was one they listened to. We went over in great detail the whole issue with him and we started expanding our group of supporters, including the Labor movement. We had [John] Sweeney, Tom Donahue and a number of others whom the President was trying to mend fences with on NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement]. I spoke with both Christopher and [Anthony] Lake and also Vice President [Albert] Gore.

Young

Was Gore a hard sell?

Kennedy

Gore was interested in the arguments on it but I couldn’t really tell where he was. He said, Well, there’s a lot of people against it, but these are good ideas, but I couldn’t get any kind of answer—I never formed an opinion of where he was.

Young

What about [Janet] Reno? Was she opposed? Was she a factor to be dealt with?

Kennedy

I knew that they were going to have whatever they had, and the British were going to give them whatever they had on the issue. They didn’t express much. They said, Look, the White House asked for this material and we’ve gotten this thing and this is going to be something they’ve got to pretty much decide. I don’t think she expressed a view. I can’t remember her expressing anything to me about it. 

We had a lot of other people who were talking to people in the White House. Tip’s person, Kirk O’Donnell, was very close to George Stephanopoulos in the White House. We had people who were close to him. Mark Gearan was in the White House and my AA, Paul Donovan, was close to Mark. Then there was Jim Lyons, who was close to the President. He was from Arkansas and he had been on the Ireland Fund. I hadn’t been particularly close to him. I had seen him when he would come through D.C. and he would brief me, but he was active and working the White House on this. 

Then on the 25th of January, the President called me to thank me for what I said about his State of the Union speech, and I spoke to him directly about this issue, and asked if I could come down and see him and he said fine. It was interesting with Clinton. I could get him on the phone easier than I can get my wife, Vicki. I mean, you call him and he calls you back in five minutes. You want to go down to see him, he’s glad to see you. He’s very accessible and available. I’ll get into that in time but that was the big meeting that we had with him later that day with Chris Dodd, and with Sandy Berger and Mack [Thomas F.] McLarty.

Young

Was Clinton in on that meeting?

Kennedy

Oh, yes. He sat through the whole thing.

Young

What was your reading of him during the meeting and when you brought it up in the conversation the day before?

Kennedy

This was a close case. There are a lot of cases that are 51 to 49, but you have to make a judgment, you have to go to one side or the other. So you make your judgment and then you’re a hundred percent on that side. This was, I thought, by the time where my own thinking was at 90 to 10. I didn’t even think it was close. I didn’t even think that this was a close question. I was very familiar now both with the case and with the opposition in the case and the nature of the opposition, the arguments of the opposition, what they were saying and doing, and I had thought through the responses to that opposition.

I felt that at the end of the meeting with Clinton that we were going to get it. I thought we were going to be successful. I thought he listened from every point of view—the cause of peace, the chances for peace, what was going to happen if he didn’t take the chance for peace. The substance of this thing was so powerful. The politics were so powerful on this thing and the decision not to do this thing even if it went south made no sense. He was going to take the chance. He could demonstrate that he was trying to get the chance for peace. Even if you took the worst arguments that Foley had—and they had provided such arguments. The fact that he took the chance for peace was so convincing, because he could make this case and it could all be buttressed by conversations with Reynolds and talking to the Prime Minister and other people, security people.

You don’t often get political decisions that come down your way at the White House that are this compelling, I don’t think. I had been with President Clinton where I thought I had him convinced and it still didn’t go, it didn’t work.

Young

But you didn’t get that feeling on the visa issue?

Kennedy

No. I didn’t know whether it was going. I thought he was convinced, but I didn’t know what the other factors were going to be that would try and sink it.

Young

What was your sense of what resonated with him particularly?

Kennedy

One, the chance for peace, and two, the politics. He could understand both. Those were the two things, the chance for peace—you’d make a difference in terms of getting the chance for peace and be unique in that sense—the first President who reached this. And the politics of it—the fact that all Irish-Americans would appreciate that he had tried for peace. If he didn’t, they’d all know he didn’t. He could understand that.

Young

Was anything said about the internal politics on the Irish side?

Kennedy

Well, I think the argument came up about whether, if he gave it now, this would skew Sinn Fein to be willing to move towards a cease-fire and advantage those forces that wanted to move ahead. That was a good argument and it’s a very powerful argument, but I never thought that it had quite the resonance that these other arguments had. 

It was a very good and important one for people who were deeply steeped in this conflict and understood the tensions and the antagonisms and the reluctance and the resistance going back over the history of surrendering their weapons and all the rest. It goes back a long way. There’s a culture and a history on that thing that is dramatic. For people who understood all of that—I mean, he’s multidimensional obviously, so he probably had some read on it.

Young

He may have gotten that even before.

Kennedy

He was going to a conference with Margaret Thatcher and Henry Kissinger, sponsored by a group called the National Committee on American Foreign Policy—and Jeane Kirkpatrick was on the board. Jeane Kirkpatrick on the board and you’re going to deny him a chance to get a chance for peace when they are on that board? That was masterful that they had that board that was made up of all of these right-wingers.

Young

Did you know this was going to happen before it happened—that there was going to be this invitation to him?

Kennedy

No. I didn’t know the circumstances. Of course, once this thing had taken shape, it just fit in, but I didn’t know before that these series of events were going to happen.

Young

Because there was something in the record about trying to dissuade them from asking Gerry Adams to that because it wasn’t the right time. Who was the guy who was running it?

Kennedy

Flynn, but Niall O’Dowd is the—

Young

Yes. Well, they were not about to listen to that argument. I think that’s exactly what they wanted.

Kennedy

Once they probably heard that I was aboard on this thing, they started to move and forced both my hand and theirs. Even after leaving there, I thought the meeting had gone well but we had this other action, that the State Department played its card about the interview. They were going to do an interview, a pre-visa interview, to hand him the question about, We know that you’ll state publicly, personally renounce violence and we’ll work to that end. Sinn Fein and IRA come in to end the conflict and support the joint declaration. The great challenge obviously with that statement is that it sounds reasonable to any ordinary person—Who wants to have a guest with a terrorist record who will not renounce the terrorism? But obviously it was totally unrealistic to expect Adams to do. 

So there was a lot of back channeling about what he was going to say and what the question was going to be, but that was very possible. We heard that after the meeting at the White House he was going to get the visa, and then we heard these questions and it seemed like that was so distant and foreign, and how we were going to intersect with the immigration service and all the rest of it. We had a feeling that it might be getting away from us.

Young

The questioning of him put it back in the court of the State Department.

Kennedy

They were strongly against it and they were smart enough to know what questions to have them ask that we can’t answer. That’s the direction that they were going in.

Young

It boiled down to the issue of whether he would use the word renounce, or say that he would renounce, or something like that. From what I understand from the notes, he wouldn’t have done that and the whole thing would have been—He’s quoted as saying, It’s like pulling a bullet from my head. This is one reason I was asking about whether Clinton was understanding this nuance of the fragile position that he was in.

Kennedy

All of us had a sense that this had been a very dicey road for Adams. He deserves a lot of credit for his personal courage over the whole process. I’m not sure that either Clinton or any of us were certain—once you see the word renounce and you see the alternatives side by side, you can understand it, but it’s a little tough to get. 

The way I saw it is now they’re over there in Belfast quizzing him, asking him questions they ask everybody about renouncing force or violence. They don’t know whether we can let him in unless he does. We didn’t see the language part. This is the way it comes at you. Then we understand they were trying to get a veto on this issue and I think by this time the White House was probably trying to get this thing cooking again. We’ve got the powers that be talking to him and getting mutually acceptable language that can be worked on through. 

There’s the old story about the Irishman who kept failing the immigration test and he only failed it by one, and he never got the answer to this one question: Do you favor overthrow of the United States by force or violence? The first year he said force, and so he lost. The next year he said violence, and he lost. Then finally the third year he said, Neither. Which one do you want to overthrow them by?

Adams believed he had said what he needed to say to justify the visa. Then early the next day, the 28th, I talked to Jean. The Consul General of Belfast had just interviewed him for an hour-and-a-half and heard his statement, and he reported to the department that Adams had not changed his position. Even though the General was cordial to Adams, when Adams was leaving he told him, In my opinion, there’s no way you’ll get the visa. I made a joke with Jean that if that was the decision, she’d have to resign, and she said, No, I’m having too much fun. Later that morning, I called Tony Lake and said I thought this had gotten out of hand.

Young

You really poured it on on that one, didn’t you?

Kennedy

Yes. It seemed that if they were not going to give him the visa, they should let us know and give it to us straight. To sharp shoot this thing and flyspeck it and sink it in that way was, I thought, devious. You know, an unbecoming and unacceptable way of dealing with it. 

I had indicated to Lake that the word is going to get out fast about what decision the President has made on it, and the Irish are going to be worked up about it. I said that I was going to offer an amendment on the State Department Authorization Bill, which was on the Senate floor, saying that the visa should be granted and that I thought we had the votes to prevail, because we already had everybody lined up—well, an awful lot in line in terms of the Senate. I’m convinced we would have gotten whistled through the House. Then I let Gore and McLarty know from the floor. We asked Dodd and [Patrick] Leahy and Mitchell to call the White House and we tried to get hold of Reno about it.

The next day, January 29, we found out that three grenades had been discovered in San Diego, each with a note urging a visa for Adams. Since this was going to get out, the White House wanted Adams to do some things before the visa could be issued—denounce the bombings, condemn the attacks on innocent civilians, and condemn the recent bombings in Oxford Street in London.

Young

So it becomes condemning instead of renouncing.

Kennedy

Yes. Adams agreed that if asked by the press, he would condemn the incidents and say they were the work of elements who seek to sabotage the efforts to support the peace process.

Young

Those grenades, that strikes me as just something phony.

Kennedy

I never got the end of that story.

Young

The intelligence on that was that nothing like this ever happened. This is very uncharacteristic. I don’t know. It’s just a funny part of the story because that provides, Well, then he’ll have to renounce. He’ll have to come out against the grenades, against violence.

Kennedy

It never added up, and then the next day they gave Adams the visa. Seven months later the IRA declared a full cease-fire and the long negotiations for the Good Friday Agreement began. But once Adams got the visa, we never really paid much attention to that incident. I never heard anything more about it.

Young

It’s kind of striking that very soon after the Adams visa thing was settled comes another request for a visa for Joe Cahill, who was the real hardliner in the IRA, but apparently that didn’t provoke all this. Was it that the war was already lost?

Kennedy

Well, it was interesting. I think the political people understood in the White House that you needed a hardliner to tell the hardliners over here that this was for real, and that got out and was pretty convincing, even for those who might have been against it.

Young

I don’t know who proposed the visa. I don’t know whether Gerry Adams did or if it was John.

Kennedy

Well, it was proposed by Cahill. I don’t know who—they said that they were sending Cahill over here. That was their judgment decision but he was clearly the guy that they listened to.

Young

I think it was a difficult moment for Al Reynolds. As they described it, he called up—Jean was in France—and he said you’d better come back over here to help us work this thing. The argument was that if you don’t have a hardliner in the IRA doing it, the whole thing is at risk.

Kennedy

The whole thing is at risk. I think that they had a sense that once they had moved in this direction it wasn’t going to be reversed—Cahill’s not going back the other way. They have such intelligence. In the [Robert] McCartney case, they’ve got informers. They’ve got three informers over there who are into the IRA, and the informers describe the whole place exactly, so they’ve got all the intelligence on this thing. 

We’ve read in recent times where some of these people have come out of the closet and said that they were—but they have a good sense of what is going on and have had a sense about what’s going on. That was something that was important in this area because the services that were not sympathetic to Adams at all, but professional, had all come up with the same answer. You know, all of his stuff is wiretapped. The people that he sees, they know. His wife, his kids, people that he sees talking to other people—all of this had to be straight. He told Hume that that would be the way he’d do it. This thing, you know, was followed through on.

Young

You saw Adams when he came over. What was your measure of him?

Kennedy

I think he’s a very able, gifted, and talented politician. He’s a charismatic figure. I can see why he’s a leader in a first sense and he’s a very clever political leader. I can understand why he’s been so successful. He’s got a lot of very strong qualities of leadership. 

My own sense is that they have to get out of the cloud and the shadows and the darkness of criminality. I spoke to him about that just briefly out in the corridor. I didn’t want to talk to him in front of all those people but I said that he has every kind of opportunity in terms of the future, in terms of the South and the North, given the timeframe, but he has to get out of that shadow of criminality. He cannot have a blind eye to these thugs and the criminal element in the North. He’s got to sign up for the police and cooperate with them, and he has to deal with that whole area of criminality. 

I imagine it’s going to be a risk for him because these guys are gangsters and thugs. The people who know the results of these insurgencies that take place say this is the transition. The people who are thugs and gangsters have nothing else and then they go back to it and so it’s a necessary process to go through. But he has to free himself from that. He had to free himself from having a political army and he has to also do this. 

I wanted just to give him my sense about that, because I think otherwise he’s limited in where he’s going to go, because of this whole area of criminality and thuggery that’s up there in the north. If he just says, I’m not going to get into it; we’re clean, I don’t think that’s going to be a good enough answer. I don’t think that’s a good enough answer. It may be for a while. Maybe he can get through some elections, but he’s not going to be able to go the distance. You’ve come so far on it. 

Clearly, the other element that they face now is having to get the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] into the process. I remember—I think I mentioned this earlier—talking with [Anthony] Blair about this and Blair had indicated that Sinn Fein was going to have to decommission its weapons, and then they were going to have at least two reports that said they had by the IMC [Independent Monitoring Commission]. Then the British Government would take a stand, whether the DUP wanted them or not. 

I have notes on that with Blair. It is just extraordinary to me because Vicki remembers me writing the notes on it, and so that’s why it’s amazing to me. With the heads of state, I’ve always written those things down.

Young

Well, certainly if you ever come across them or find them I think it’s just extremely important to have that in the record. Do you have any recollections right now of those talks with him that you want to put on the record, with Blair?

Kennedy

Just this part, which is the most important part. He indicated that they were going to have to make some changes in the legislation and the policing, and that they were prepared to do it. They indicated that they were going to have to do something, but what was really necessary was the decommissioning, certification from [John de] Chastelain and also filing the report subsequently. So there was the IMC report, which they have gotten now. They’ve had several reports.

Young

So then follow up after de Chastelain?

Kennedy

Yes. They have what they call the IMC reports. They are now up to seven or eight of them but they had one in the fall, in September, and then they were going to have one in January. The conclusion that was in those reports is that all the weapons have been turned over, but that there is an element of gangsterism, and that they are not under the direct control of the IRA, but they’re out there. 

You know, from this weekend what we get from [Mark] Durkan, who is the SDLP [Social Democratic and Labor Party] leader, is a feeling that you can’t have a vacuum for very long, and that’s what we had over there. On the other side, I was not impressed by Ahern, who said that we’re going to set up some kind of a process in the spring and that I have Blair’s commitment that the governing of Northern Ireland will be from Dublin and from London, and that will be too much for the DUP, and we’re prepared to do that in September. It sounds rather dramatic. Most of the others that you talked to don’t believe that that will be the case and they are all concerned that this thing will just drift along and the DUP will exercise a veto over the reestablishment of the institutions.

Young

Are you optimistic?

Kennedy

It just seems they’ve come so far. I don’t know how they can go back. Blair’s got some other problems now. You read in the paper about these campaign loans and finances, and they point out that Gordon Brown, although he’s a good friend of mine, has no interest or very little interest in Ireland. Blair does, and if there’s a transition to Gordon Brown, what will that mean? We have invited the DUP—I’ve gotten [Richard] Lugar and [Joseph] Biden to invite the DUP over here for a series of conversations at their convenience. I saw [Ian] Paisley’s son. I met with the Policing Board. There were about nine of them, of whom Paisley’s son was one of them. I took him aside and said we’ve invited members and I hope you’ll follow up on it. There is also, on the Human Rights Commission, a DUP member and I mentioned that to him as well.

Young

You’ve made overtures in the past, too, to Unionists.

Kennedy

Yes. We’ve met with the Unionist leader, Reggie [Reginald] Empey, here, and we had [David] Trimble in the past. I went to visit him at his house and stuff like that. We’ve tried. There’s an enormous amount of criminality going on among the Unionists now, much more in terms of the other side and that’s basically the gangsters, drugs dealers, and other thugs. It’s important that Adams gets into the policing. I asked the Policing Board would it make much difference, and it was just like a firecracker went off. Oh my God—difference? Wow, it would make all the difference in the world if we ever get him into this. They are hiring Catholics now, but to have their involvement in this would make an enormous difference and of course, I think that’s the case too.

Young

Two other little things. You had mentioned earlier Clinton at the lunch where you had people from different parts of the room. Could you give us a description, because this is sort of the fully-evolved notion.

Kennedy

The receptions we had in 1995, ’94 or ’95, when they had the St. Patrick’s Day lunch. Clinton invited them—Gerry Adams came to the lunch. John Hume was at the lunch—John Hume and Gerry Adams—Clinton’s got his arms around both of them. You also had the leaders of Unionist parties all around at the lunch. 

It’s a very lively lunch, the Speaker’s Lunch. It’s sort of fast moving. People were getting up and moving around and saying hello and everybody’s meeting and greeting. It’s kind of a grab bag but it works. The most important part was the White House reception. In the first couple of years of President Clinton, they had a reception with probably 250 people. The last year you must have had 1,000 and it lost some of its impact. I mean, I would go for fifteen minutes and then leave. They had every Irishman from every part of the world in there. 

But the first two or three years it was a new event. One particular trip, he flew all the way back from Spain. I can remember him coming back from Spain and he had gone through Europe and he came back. He’d been on the go all of the time and he stood in that line for two hours and said hello to everybody. I went up to see him at the very end. I went at the end just to thank him for all the things that he did. 

He went upstairs and at this time—now that whole East Room is all opened up—all those rooms, lovely rooms, were open. There are bars in every one of them and there’s pretty good music. Around 9:00—I sort of hung around—people started to leave and the only people who were really left there were the people who had come from Ireland. The other people had gone out and gone to dinner, and it was just the principals.

I remember Clinton saying he was going up to bed but he was going to leave everything going, the music would stay down there. You looked around the room and you could just see in that East Room all those who eventually were the key players in the Good Friday Agreement. They were all there. They weren’t going to come, or said, I’m not going to come. So-and-so comes at the last minute. There was going to be somebody in somebody else’s place but then the real person comes. You just cannot resist going to the White House and shaking the President’s hand; it just has a draw to it. You found these people stayed there about another 45 minutes. 

The groups were moving around and talking to each other. You would find out from all of those who have been a part of those events—they’d say that in the three or four days here they got to talk to each other in ways they never could have before—just wisps of ideas, suggestions on these things, and it went on. The last couple of years it just massively overflowed and it didn’t have the same context. A lot of these people were there, but it ended earlier and it didn’t have the fabric that it did for probably the first two or three years when it was the most important.

Young

And this is stopped now?

Kennedy

This is stopped, yes.

Young

You did mention earlier today something about President Bush making some comment at a meeting, or a lunch was it? Was he at one of the lunches?

Kennedy

President Bush was at this lunch last week. I talked to him for several minutes. I asked him how he was doing. He actually asked me what my position on the Indian Nuclear Agreement was going to be and I said I’m still taking a look at it. He said, Try and help us. Then I mentioned to him, If you get some time in there, we had a great start on education—It would be wonderful to get back together on the education issue. And he said, Well, let me think about that. When Ahern talked about immigration, he turned over and winked at me on that.

Young

But on Ireland he doesn’t do anything?

Kennedy

No. He had indicated he would be willing to do whatever he was asked and I had said to him, Well, I think there may be some things to get the institutions back up, and he said, I’m ready to do whatever. And I think he is. When [Richard] Haass was over there, Irish policy was really being run out of the White House. Now it’s sort of in the basement of the State Department. The President can do Paisley maybe once but not twice. So when it’s set up, at the key time he could be very helpful. I personally think he’ll be glad to do it. They have to let us know, too. We can get hold of Andy Card and the others to get things done if we know.

Young

Paisley?

Kennedy

Paisley had said in December three years ago, the year when they had the robbery up there. It was two years ago or three years ago and they had the breakdown in negotiations because the Unionists insisted on having pictures taken of the decommissioning. That was what it broke down to. They said they’re not going to have pictures taken. But prior to that, coming out at the meeting, Paisley had mentioned to Ahern and also to Hume and others that in his life he wanted to see this resolved. They believed him, but they haven’t seen that side since. They think people were double-talking while they were planning the bank robbery and the McCartney murder. They just feel that they can’t be trusted.

Young

That was all on television when we were over there for the interviews in Ireland.

Kennedy

That’s the other robbery. You saw the London robbery.

Young

No, I’m talking about the decommissioning and Paisley’s position. Father Reid was on, Chastelain was on for a long time. Tim Pat Coogan was on, and Paisley was on. John Hume was on. Paisley really stood up and gave an absolutely intransigent line: It was a phony process, there weren’t any pictures, there was criminality and the whole thing was—decommissioning meant nothing. It wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. He was giving a real standup about it. The Dublin newspapers that day—I brought one of them home—had headlines this big: The War is Over. It was really quite—and the preponderance of opinion was of course that this is a very significant step and it wasn’t buying the Paisley thing. A lot of people were saying that Paisley just keeps getting outside of the whole—

Kennedy

He keeps moving the goalpost. Do you want to get a picture? Should we get a picture?

This is one of the many interviews that comprise the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History. For more information about the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History, including links to all interviews, please click here.

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