State papers: Adare Manor wanted to host USSR-US summit

Department of Foreign Affairs chief of protocol said ‘standard of service was not adequate for a meeting of this type’

Speculation that Ireland might host a historic summit between US president George Bush Snr and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev encouraged Adare Manor to offer itself as a venue for the meeting.

The speculation arose after a meeting between taoiseach Charlie Haughey and Gorbachev in April 1989, when the Soviet leader made a stopover at Shannon Airport on his way to Cuba.

After the meeting, Haughey said Ireland had been proposed as a venue for the USSR-US summit and Gorbachev had said it was something that “would be kept in mind and considered”.

That was enough for the then managing director of Adare Manor Christopher Oakes, who wrote to Haughey soon after. "Amid much speculation about the choice of Ireland as a venue for the forthcoming Autumn Summit between Mr Bush and Mr Gorbachev, I would like to propose the magnificent setting of Adare Manor as a venue for this historic summit," he wrote.


He noted that Haughey had performed the official opening of the hotel the previous September and was already aware of “the beauty and splendour” of the manor. The letter was accompanied by a dossier, outlining the facilities at the Limerick estate.

The correspondence was passed to the Department of Foreign Affairs chief of protocol, who poured cold water on the suggestion. “We recently visited Adare when checking on a possible venue for the informal meeting of Foreign Ministers during the EC Presidency and we came to the conclusion that the standard of service was not adequate for a meeting of this type,” she told Haughey’s office.

Haughey sugar-coated his response to Adare Manor, saying the facilities were “indeed excellent” and while there had been no decision on the location for the next East-West summit, “I can assure you however that should it be decided to hold the summit in Ireland, Adare Manor would be considered as a possible venue”.

Malta was the chosen venue for the Gorbachev-Bush summit, in December 1989. It was as historic as promised, with both leaders declaring an end to the Cold War.

Ancestral home

Adare Manor had been the ancestral home of the Dunraven family. When it was offered for sale in 1980, Haughey received many representations from people who believed the State should consider acquiring it. They included a representative of the Dunraven family, and two Limerick politicians – Fine Gael's Michael Noonan, and the then minister for justice Gerry Collins. A briefing note prepared for Haughey's office noted that Collins' representation was the only one strongly pursued.

However, the lack of State funds to buy and develop the property meant that department officials did not encourage any involvement. The Office of Public Works said it was not interested in acquiring the estate unless some special State use was proposed for it.

The estate of almost 900 acres was sold in December 1987 to US investment banker Thomas Kane, for a reported £2 million. One month earlier, Gerry Collins still hadn't given up hope that the State might acquire the property and he sent a note to the taoiseach saying he understood Adare Manor was back on the market "for a song – £1m +".

The five-star hotel and golf resort was sold to businessman JP McManus for an estimated €30 million in 2015. It has since undergone major renovations and has won a slew of accolades in recent years.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times