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Ganley 'wanted Ahern's US address delayed'

LIBERTAS leader Declan Ganley tried to get American officials to change the date for former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's historic address at a joint session of the US Congress, according to a leaked US embassy cable.

The cable states Mr Ganley unsuccessfully lobbied the US embassy in an effort to delay Mr Ahern's address until after the first Lisbon Treaty poll.

Mr Ganley claimed Mr Ahern would use the address, which eventually took place on April 30, 2008, to promote a Yes vote in the June 2008 referendum.

However, he was met with short shrift by then US Ambassador Thomas Foley.

In a 'confidential' cable, circulated in February 2008 to the office of then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US embassies across the EU, the ambassador stated Mr Ganley was "overstating the case" that Mr Ahern's address would sway the Irish electorate.

The Ambassador assured Mr Ganley the US would take no side in the Treaty debate.

Mr Ahern became only the fifth world leader ever to have addressed joint sessions of both the US Congress and the British Parliament, after Haile Selassie, Charles de Gaulle, Francois Mitterrand and Nelson Mandela.

Five Irish leaders -- John Bruton, Garret FitzGerald, Liam Cosgrave, Eamon de Valera and Sean T O'Kelly -- had previously addressed Congress.

Mr Ganley, accompanied by his executive assistant Stephen Nolan, met the Ambassador on February 19, 2008 to urge him to press Congress not to set the date for the address prior to the date for the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

According to the cable Mr Ganley "expressed great concern that Ahern, whose favourable ratings have been falling since his June 2007 re-election, would use the inevitable bounce in popularity from his appearance before Congress to sway Irish voters to support the Treaty".

He is said to have "warned that the US must be careful not to directly or indirectly influence the outcome of the Treaty referendum".

The Ambassador responded that the US would take no side in the debate.

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He later wrote: "While we can expect a bounce for Ahern, who is beleaguered by investigations and tribunals into his personal affairs, Ganley is overstating the case that much of Ireland will be swayed regarding the Treaty due to Ahern's Congressional appearance."

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