The Irish Government was concerned about Iran opening an embassy in Dublin and about that country's sympathies towards the IRA, "confidential" state documents from the 1980s reveal.
The document, a brief of political observations between Ireland and Iran states, mentions concerns about the Middle Eastern country's "championing" of hunger striker Bobby Sands, but goes on to say the issue could be “brought under control fairly quickly” as it was mainly due to their “ignorance” of the Northern Ireland situation, reports TheJournal.ie.
The document says that the championing of Sands was being used as a “convenient outlet for anti-Britishness, as it is a zeal for the Provo cause."
It also mentions a "chill of western relations" after the 1979 taking of hostages from the US embassy in Iran and states a concern that if Iran opened an embassy in Dublin, “the interactions with existing embassies… the French, US and Egyptian embassies… may be frosty ..."
A point was also made regarding the issue of Middle Eastern students in Ireland, stating that the the embassy might try to “spread the gospel of Khomeini’s revolutionary Islam among this group." There were additional concerns that Iraqi protests would be outside the embassy .
Despite these concerns, the brief recommends that “no obstacle” be put in the way of Iran opening an embassy in Dublin.
The Journal.ie adds that in a separate letter dated Sep 8, 1981 to the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, diplomat Niall Holohan stated he had spoken with Mr Taghavi, the then Director of the Third Political Division in the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, who voiced Iran's interest in opening an embassy in Dublin.
Holohan, who is now Ireland’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said he did not respond to Taghavi's query on the embassy and said that given the attacks on Iranian embassies in several European countries, it was “probably fortunate that there is no official Iranian presence in Dublin at this present time."
He said that Taghavi asked him to explain Ireland's position on the situation in Northern Ireland and stated that Iran's "sympathy for the IRA” was well-known, although he understood the organization was “illegal."
Holohan said that he explained that “however honorable the aim of the IRA might be, their methods were repugnant to the Irish Government and to the vast majority of the Irish people" and added that the Irish Government would not look favorably on any foreign government giving aid to the IRA.
Taghavi responded that accurate reporting on 'the Troubles' in Northern Ireland was difficult to come by and appreciated Holohan's account of the situation.
In another document regarding the coverage of the IRA in Iran, the Department of Foreign Affairs was forwarded on some of the reports from the Iranian media, including clippings from Iranian newspapers about Bobby Sands.
The document states that Sinn Fein's “Foreign Relations Officer” sent condolences to the Iranian Government after the death of a number of their senior ministers.
It also states that Iran's attention to the IRA and the hunger strikers was due to “Britain being treated as the béte noir of world of imperialism” and adds that the role of Britain in Iran and the country's closeness to the US, was why the Northern Ireland situation was “being used as a further stick with which to beat the British."
In yet another document, a British Foreign Ministry diplomat stated they did not think Iranian sympathies towards the IRA would develop beyond a “symbolic level," saying that the road running next to the British Embassy compound in Tehran was renamed after the hunger striker Bobby Sands, but was not to be taken too seriously.
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore