|For Immediate Release||September 3, 1998|
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you for the wonderfulwelcome. I am very, very proud to be the first American President to visitArmagh. Thank you for making Hillary and me feel so welcome tonight.(Applause.)
I thank Mayor Turner; my good friend, Prime Minister Blair,who will speak in a moment. I thank First Minister Trimble and FirstDeputyMinister Seamus Mallon for their remarks and their leadership. Therole-modeling they are doing by working together for a peace for all thepeople of Northern Ireland -- I think we should give them both a big handforthat. (Applause.) I thank them.
There are other members of the Assembly here tonight whorepresent surrounding areas -- Paul Berry, Danny Kennedy, Pat McNamee,ConnorMurphy, John Fee -- we thank them for their service in Northern Ireland'snewAssembly, the hope for its peaceful future.
I also would like to say a special word of appreciation totheremarkable young woman who introduced me, Sharon Haughey. I'll neverforgetthe letter she wrote me in 1995. A 14-year-old girl, in the midst of allthisviolence, said "both sides have been hurt, both sides will have toforgive."It was so simple, so profound, that I quoted it when I came here threeyearsago. Well, she's grown up to be quite an impressive young 17-year-old, and Iwas very honored to have her here tonight as the symbol of what NorthernIreland can become if you put away war and take up peace forever. Thankyou,Sharon. (Applause.)
I'd like to thank the wonderful choir who sang forus a few moments ago. I would like to thank the members of ourdelegation, the Secretaries of Education and Commerce, and 12members of the United States Congress from both parties, forcoming here.
You know, many United States Presidents' ancestorsactually came to America from Northern Ireland. Andrew Jackson'sfather was from Kerrick Fergis in County Antrim. WoodrowWilson's grandfather left Dergalt in County Tyrone. My ancestorswere so humble, everyone knows they came from somewhere inNorthern Ireland and no one is quite sure where. (Laughter.)Most believe the 18th century Cassadys, my mother's people, werefrom County Fermanagh. (Applause.) Most believe that thosepeople were my forebears, and I have a painted water color of an18th century farmhouse on our wall at the White House to proveit. The truth is, I can't be sure, so I'll save all thegenealogists a lot of trouble by saying, wherever I am tonight,it is good to be home in Northern Ireland. (Applause.)
I am especially proud to be here with my wife atthis important time. Yesterday she spoke to the Vital VoicesConference, hundreds of women from Northern Ireland, workingacross all the lines that divide you, for a better future.Tonight we are proud to be in a place that is a spiritual home toIrish people of both religious traditions and to millions ofIrish Americans as well.
Armagh is a city on a hill in every sense. Yourfaith and tolerance are making a new era of peace possible. Foryourselves and all the world, in every act of genuinereconciliation you renew confidence that decency can triumph overhatred. You have inspired the rest of us to aim a little higher.I thank you, and America thanks you, for the precious give yougive us all, a gift of hope redeemed and faith restored.
Indeed, I am tempted in this city of saints andcathedrals to call the peace of 1998 a miracle. After all, itwas delivered through the agency of that good American angel,Senator George Mitchell, who is here. It was delivered on GoodFriday. (Applause.)
Nonetheless, I think you would all agree that atleast in the normal sense in which we use the word, the peace ofGood Friday was not a miracle. You did it yourselves. It rosefrom the public's passionate demand to take a different course.It came about from the hard work of leaders like those who are onthis stage -- from David Trimble and Seamus Mallon, from theleaders of the other parties, from Tony Blair and the Irish PrimeMinister as well.
It came from honest debate. And again, it came loudand clear from an overwhelming vote of the people for peace. Itis you who have told your leaders that you long for peace asnever before. You gave them the confidence to move forward, togive up the past, and speak the language of the future.
Armagh has stood for these better aspirationsthroughout its long history. If there is a recurring theme tothis seat of learning and religion, it is the largeness of thehuman spirit. Here, a Briton, Saint Patrick, devoted himself tothe cause of Ireland and left a legacy of faith and compassion.Here, the Book of Armagh preserved his gentle message and thepower of the gospels.
Today, the two cathedrals that dominate thelandscape stand for the idea that communion is better thandestructive competition. Two proud traditions can exist side byside, bringing people closer to God and closer to each other.I salute the leadership of Dr. Sean Brady and Dr. Robin Eames,the Archbishops of the Catholic and the Church of Irelanddioceses respectively. For years they have walked together whenit counted. (Applause.) I salute the Presbyterians and theMethodists who have worked hard for peace; indeed, the men andwomen of all denominations.
Here, there have been difficulties, as elsewhere.But the historic streets of this old town remind us of afundamental fact about your community: Armagh literallyencircles its many traditions in a single community. That iswhat Northern Ireland must do if you want the future of peace andprosperity that belongs to the children in this crowd tonight.(Applause.)
As you look ahead, to be sure, in this peace processthere will be false steps and disappointments. The question isnot if the peace will be challenged -- you know it will. Thequestion is, how will you respond when it is challenged. Youdon't have to look too far. The bomb that tore at the heart ofOmagh was a blatant attack on all of Northern Ireland's peoplewho support peace.
The Prime Minister and Mrs. Blair and Hillary and Ijust came from Omagh. We met with the families whose innocentswere slaughtered. We met with those who were terribly wounded.We saw children scarred, some of them for life, because of themadness that if someone could just set off a big enough bomb andkill enough Protestants and Catholics, kill enough men, women andchildren, including two pregnant women, kill enough people fromNorthern Ireland, Ireland, and foreign countries that maybeeverybody would walk away from peace.
But it backfired. Out of the unimaginably horribleagony Omagh, the people said, it is high time somebody told thesepeople that we are through with hate, through with war, throughwith destruction. It will not work anymore. (Applause).
Think of what it will be like when everyone forevercan simply walk freely through Armagh with no anxiety about whatstreet you walk down or with whom you talk. Think how beautifulthis city can be without any barbed wire and never a thought of aburned church. Peace brings peace of mind and prosperity and newfriends eager to see this historic and compelling land for thefirst time. People once were afraid to come to Armagh andNorthern Ireland. Now they will be hard pressed to stay away.(Applause.)
We wanted to come here in person to thank you -- tothank you for the peace, to thank you for strengthening the handof everyone -- everyone anywhere who is working to make the worlda little better.
When I go now to other troubled places I point toyou as proof that peace is not an idle daydream, for your peaceis real, and it resonates around the world. It echoes in theears of people hungry for the end of strive in their own country.Now when I meet Palestinians and Israelis, I can say, don't tellme it's impossible, look at Northern Ireland. When I meetAlbanians and Serbs in Kosovo I can say, don't tell me it'simpossible, look at Northern Ireland. (Applause.) When I hearwhat the Indians and Pakistanis say about each other over theirreligious differences, I say, don't tell me you can't work thisout, look at Northern Ireland. Centuries were put to bed and anew day has dawned. Thank you for that gift to the world.(Applause.)
And never underestimate the impact you can have onthe world. The great English poet and clergyman, John Donne,wrote those famous lines, "No man is an island. We are all apiece of the continent, a part of the main." Tonight we mighteven say in this inter-connected island, not even a very uniqueisland, not even Ireland is fully an island.
On this island, Northern Ireland obviously isconnected in ways to the Republic, as well as to England,Scotland, and Wales -- and, in ways, the Republic of Ireland isconnected to them also. All of you on this island increasinglyare connected to Europe and to the rest of the world, as ideasand information and people fly across the globe at record speeds.We are tied ever closer together, and we have obligations nowthat we cannot shirk, to stand for the cause of human dignityeverywhere.
To continue John Donne's beautiful metaphor, whenthe bells of Armagh toll, they ring out not just to the Irish ofProtestant and Catholic traditions. They ring out to peopleeverywhere in the world who long for peace and freedom anddignity. That is your gift. (Applause.)
We Americans will do what we can to support thepeace -- to support economic projects, to support educationprojects. Tomorrow, the Secretary of Education will announce acooperative effort here to help children bring peace by doingcross-community civic projects. We know we have an obligation toyou because your ancestors were such a source of strength inAmerica's early history. Because their descendants are buildingAmerica's future today, because of all that, we have notforgotten our debt to Ulster. But we really owe an obligation toyou because none of us are islands; we are all now a part of themain.
Three years ago, I pledged that if you chose peaceAmerica would walk with you. You made the choice, and Americawill honor its pledge. (Applause.)
Thank you for the springtime of hope you have giventhe world. Thank you for reminding us of one of life's mostimportant lessons, that it is never too late for a new beginning.And remember, you will be tested again and again, but a God ofgrace has given you a new beginning. Now you must make the mostof it, mindful of President Kennedy's adage that here on EarthGod's work must truly be our own.
Your work is the world's work. And everywhere inevery corner there are people who long to believe in our betterselves, who want to be able to say for the rest of their lives,in the face of any act of madness born of hatred over religious,or racial, or ethnic or tribal differences -- they want to beable to shake their fists in defiance and say, do not tell me ithas to be this way, look at Northern Ireland.
Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)
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A Gathering For Peace