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Tip O'Neill

January 18, 1994

* Having read your excellent article about Tip O'Neill ("Tip O'Neill Dies at 81; Five-Term Speaker of House," Jan. 6), may I offer a footnote about his talent for maintaining warm friendships even with his most ardent political adversaries, if he liked and respected them personally. In such cases, of course, the feeling was invariably mutual, as clearly demonstrated by his relationship with President George Bush.

In November, 1988, the votes had hardly been counted when President-elect Bush picked up the telephone and urged Tip O'Neill, then the retired House Speaker, to be his ambassador to Ireland. It was highly unusual for a President-elect to choose an ambassador so early, and even more unusual to choose the man who had been the powerful leader of the opposition.

But to Bush, O'Neill was a special case. He was, of course, highly qualified and would be a popular choice in Ireland. But Tip had recently developed a serious health problem, and Bush felt that a new challenge in Ireland could do wonders for him. Thus the proposal was not only an excellent choice but was an act of pure friendship and respect for a distinguished adversary.

During my time as the American ambassador in Dublin (1989-92) one of my most pleasant duties was greeting the former Speaker on his visits to Ireland which he enjoyed so much.

On more than one occasion he acknowledged that his friend George Bush had indeed twisted his arm ("He said, 'Take it, Tip, if only for six months.' "). O'Neill regretted deeply that he couldn't say yes, and in his droll way he wasn't reluctant to point out that if he had done so I wouldn't be standing there.

RICHARD A. MOORE

Washington

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