Haughey snubbed Dalai Lama

In hindsight, decisions on messages to newly-elected or crowned heads of state often raise an eyebrow.

More than 30 years on, letters have been released showing Taoiseach Charles Haughey sent best wishes to the first prime minister of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.

A similarly conciliatory tone was struck with Cuban president Fidel Castro over cigars but the same goodwill was not extended to the Dalai Lama.

In March 1980, the late Haughey wrote: “On behalf of my colleagues in the Government of Ireland and on my own behalf I have pleasure in sending to you our sincere congratulations and good wishes on your appointment as the first prime minister of Zimbabwe.

“All those who have consistently supported freedom, justice and peace for Zimbabwe have been gratified by the successful conclusion of the election process, and I am confident that, under your wise counsel and leadership, your country will advance towards full realisation of its potential.

“We wish you and your Government success in the tasks that you are now undertaking.”

In December 1979 a leader regarded as a lifelong advocate of peace and democracy, the Dalai Lama, was denied acknowledgment of a letter of congratulations from Haughey.

Liam Canniffe, in the political section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, wrote to the Taoiseach’s office to warn they would be better off not responding to the spiritual leader of Tibet, a subsequent Nobel peace prize winner.

The main concern was upsetting the Chinese – bad Karma so to speak.

“I am directed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to refer to a message of congratulations which the Taoiseach received from the Dalai Lama and to say that in our opinion no reply should issue,” Mr Canniffe wrote.

“It is felt that a reply from the Taoiseach to the Dalai Lama could be mis-interpreted in view of our recently opened diplomatic relations with the Peoples Republic of China (sic).”

The Dalai Lama had written to offer “felicitations and prayers” to “Your Excellency” Mr Haughey.

He said: “I would like to take this opportunity to express the gratitude and appreciation of the Tibetan people for the understanding and support that we have received from the Government and the people of Ireland for the Tibetan cause.

“Ireland championed a just cause of a down-trodden nation, whose people were no match to the might of China and whose only fault was to have lived in isolation. The support and inspiration we have received from Ireland during the darkest period of our history will long be remembered.”

An even more colourful character on the world stage, president of Cuba, Castro was thanked in a message from Haughey for dropping off some cigars and a casket during a flying visit.

Dated December 9 1982, it stated: “I am most grateful for the magnificent gift which you were so kind as to have passed on to me on the occasion of your recent stop-over at Shannon Airport.

“The hand carved casket is most impressive and the cigars will be greatly enjoyed by my family and friends at Christmas.”

The documents were in a file from the Taoiseach’s office marked 2012/90/486.

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