‘Not a stopover, it’s a milestone’ – From summiting with Haughey in Shannon to chatting with shopkeepers in Dublin’s Liberties, Mikhail Gorbachev had fond memories of Ireland

When former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited Ireland in 1989, he spoke of how significant this milestone was.

Orbachev, who has been described as a rare leader who changed the world and for a time inspired hope for peace among the superpowers, died Tuesday at the age of 91.

He received the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War.

In April 1989, Mr. Gorbachev and his wife Raisa met then-Taoiseach Charles Haughey at Shannon Airport during a stopover on their way to Cuba.

At the time, Gorbachev said his brief visit to Ireland was a “significant moment”.

Haughey said Ireland “deeply admires” Gorbachev’s efforts to “open up Soviet society” and wished him “every success” in his “courageous endeavours”.

He said: “You are both very welcome in Ireland. Ireland, along with the rest of the world, has watched the great changes in the Soviet Union with sympathy and understanding.”

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Mikhail Gorbachev met then-President Mary McAleese on a visit to Dublin in 2002. Photo: Chris Bacon / PA Photo

In return, Gorbachev said: “We are delighted to be here on Irish soil, thank you for the warm welcome and kind words. In the calendar of our meetings with the Heads of State and Government of a number of countries that will take place this year, Ireland is not a stopover but a milestone.”

“The first Soviet-Irish summit will be brief, but that makes every minute of it more important.”

Former Irish Ambassador to the USSR Padraig Murphy lived in Moscow in the early 1980s.

In conversation with RTÉ Tomorrow IrelandMr Murphy said Gorbachev was a man who was “alive and intellectually curious”.

“He was almost a Western-style politician. That was the kind of contrast that struck everyone, and we weren’t really surprised when he became the party’s general secretary.

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Mikhail Gorbachev meets Dublin shoppers during a walking tour in the Liberties before being granted Dublin City’s freedom in 2002. Photo: Dave Meehan

“He set out to do what really needed to be done in the Soviet Union and what was needed many decades earlier. He had a pretty lively sense of humor and was just your normal western guy.”

Gorbachev, whose tenure as President of the USSR ended with the dissolution of the Union in December 1991, received Dublin’s Freedom of the City in 2002 for his contribution to democracy and world peace.

He was also awarded a Doctor of Laws degree from Trinity College in recognition of his services to his country and his contribution to peace.

Mr. Gorbachev accepted the scroll on which the freedom of the city was inscribed and said through an interpreter that the award was very special.

He described the events of his two-day visit as very special and memorable and of great importance to him personally.

Noting that the city’s conditions of liberty meant he could now graze sheep in Dublin, Gorbachev joked that he had seen suitable land in Phoenix Park, near the President’s official residence.

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Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa at Shannon Airport in 1989. Mrs Gorbachev died in 1999

On the same trip, Gorbachev met with then-President Mary McAleese in Áras an Uachtarain.

He also chatted with local shopkeepers and residents during an informal tour of the Liberties area and met with members of the Russian community at the Hugh Lane Gallery.

Gorbachev also attended a private dinner in his honor at the Mansion House after stopping by Doheny and Nesbitt’s pub where he had a pint of Guinness.

During her visit to Moscow in September 2009, Ms. McAleese paid her warm tribute to Mr. Gorbachev, saying, “We were a privileged generation to witness the changes he led.”

She made the comments as Gorbachev attended a concert of Irish traditional music and dance with Dónal Lunny and Riverdance leads Brendan Dorris and Ciara McGillan. Ireland’s then ambassador to Russia, Philip McDonagh, on the same occasion described Gorbachev as “a great man of peace”.

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Mikhail Gorbachev tastes a pint of Guinness watched by Dublin’s Lord Mayor Michael Mulcahy at Doheny and Nesbitt’s Pub on Merrion Row. Image by Donal Doherty

“Thanks to you, President Gorbachev,” said Ms. McAleese. “Our children get to know each other in ways that previous generations could only dream of. They do that in peace. They do so with prosperity. They do so with a freedom and confidence that so many generations have longed for but never experienced.”

Ms McAleese described their private meeting on the occasion as “warm and cordial” and revealed that he told her he had fond memories of his visit to Ireland and Áras an Uachtaráin in 2002.

He said three members of his immediate family came to Ireland to study English.

Ms McAleese said he was held in high esteem by the people of Ireland and Europe as she referred to his “leadership and his crucial role at such an important time in history”.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/not-a-stopover-but-a-milestone-from-summits-with-haughey-at-shannon-to-chatting-with-shop-owners-in-dublins-liberties-mikhail-gorbachev-had-fond-memories-of-ireland-41950270.html ‘Not a stopover, it’s a milestone’ – From summiting with Haughey in Shannon to chatting with shopkeepers in Dublin’s Liberties, Mikhail Gorbachev had fond memories of Ireland

Fry Electronics Team

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