Ambassador frustrated at lack of detail on Australia-New Zealand trip

State Papers 1986: ‘Dismayed’ Irish envoy in Canberra got ‘absolutely no information’ about proposed visit

Plans for an all-expenses paid parliamentary trip to Australia and New Zealand in 1986 struggled to be finalised, trying the patience of the Irish embassy in Canberra, according to documents contained in the State papers.

A telex, dated March 10th, found in a department of foreign affairs file, expressed the frustration of the Irish ambassador in Canberra, Joseph Small, about the trip, due to start on April 14th. "We are dismayed that, despite repeated requests over the last few weeks, we have obtained absolutely no information about the Irish parliamentary delegation's proposed visit," he said.

The Australian ambassador in Dublin had “fed back some small amount of information” about the nature of the itinerary. “We are highly embarrassed every time we are contacted by officials of the Australian parliament, who are organising the event, about the matter,” Mr Small said. “Would you please make another serious attempt at rectifying this situation?”

A telex from the department of foreign affairs to the embassy, dated five days earlier, had said “all efforts so far to extract any definite information from ceann comhairle’s office have failed. They do confirm that it is intended to visit both Australia and New Zealand . . . the probable format of the delegation is 2 FG, 2 FF, 1 Lab and sec and CC.”

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Itineraries for Australia and New Zealand appear to have been finalised by March 24th, the documents show. The file also shows there was some controversy about who would travel on the trip. Newspapers at the time reported some members of a special committee, the Australian-Ireland parliamentary group, had been dropped.

The politicians who travelled were reported as ceann comhairle Tom Fitzpatrick, Madeline Taylor and Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael, former minister for justice Seán Doherty and Bertie Ahern from Fianna Fail, and Brendan Howlin, then a Labour Party senator.

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