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Remarks Of The President To The People Of Limerick

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary
(Limerick, Ireland)

For Immediate Release September 5, 1998


O'Connell Street
Limerick, Ireland

11:55 A. M. (L)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Welcome, Mr. Clinton!

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I feel welcome. (Applause.) Thankyou.Mayor Harrington, City Manger Murray, Taoiseach, Celia, to the Universityrectors, to the officials of the Irish and American governments anddistinguished members of our Congress who have accompanied me here. Let me sayon behalf of my wife and myself, and all of us who have come from America,youhave made us feel very much at home in Limerick and we thank you.(Applause.)

I would like to thank the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and the MichealSuileabhan, who performed before I came. I would like to thank everyonewho didanything to make this possible. I especially thank you for the Freedom oftheCity. I told the Mayor that I was relieved to have the Freedom of the Cityhere; it means when I'm no longer President and I come back to Ireland, Iwon'thave to stay in Dublin alone, I can come to Limerick, too. And I thankyou.(Applause.)

I thank the universities for the Rectors' Award. The work of peace isalways a community effort. I am pleased that the United States could playarole. But for all your generosity today, make no mistake about it, themajorcredit for the peace process belongs to the Irish. (Applause.) To thepeople-- to the people who voted for the Good Friday Agreement, to the leaders of thevarious groups in Northern Ireland who supported it, to the Prime MinsterofGreat Britain, and to your extraordinary Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who hasbeenbrilliant in his leadership in this endeavor. (Applause.)

Let me also echo something the Mayor said. We have this wonderfuldelegation from the United States Congress here who have loved Ireland andworked and longed for peace here for many years. But one of them actuallyhashis roots and some ofhis relatives here in Ireland -- Congressman Peter King, who is here withhisrelatives today. So thank you, Peter. And I think you have -- thank you.


Ladies and gentlemen, 35 years ago, in June of 1963, PresidentKennedycame to Limerick and promised he would return in the springtime. He wasnotable to fulfill that promise. But I appreciate the opportunity to renewit, andto thank you for the springtime of hope the Irish people have given theentireworld in 1998. You see, a great deal of my time as President is spentdealingwith the troubles people cause themselves around the world when they hatetheirneighbors because of their religious, their racial, their ethnic, theirtribaldifferences.

I saw hundreds of thousands of people die in Rwanda in a matter ofmonths over tribal differences. We see the continuing heartbreak in theMiddleEast; the trouble in the Balkans spread from now Bosnia to Kosovo. We seetrouble in the Aegean, trouble on the Indian subcontinent, trouble theworldover because people cannot understand that underneath whatever differencestheirneighbors have with them, there lurks the common humanity in the soul of us all.Because of what you had done in Ireland in 1998, you have made it possibleforme, on behalf of the United States and the cause of peace in the world, totellevery warring, feuding, hating group of people trapped in the prison oftheirpast conflicts to look at Ireland and know that there can be a better day.

Thank you for that. (Applause.)

I came here, too, to Limerick and to Western Ireland to see thishistoric point of embarkation for the New World, where the Shannonapproachesthe Atlantic and so many faces turned in hope to America over the years. Iwanted to remember our common pasts and to imagine for a few moments withyouthe future we can build together. For the last decade is only a tinyportion ofIrish history, though it has witnessed a sea change in the life of theIrishpeople. The demons of the past are losing their power to divide you, and a newand better and more prosperous history is unfolding before you.

You mentioned the McCort brothers from Limerick who did grace theWhiteHouse last St. Patrick's Day. Now I'll have to go home and tell FrankMcCort,you know, Frank, you made a lot of money writing about the old Limerick,but Ilike the new one better, and I think you would, too. (Applause.)

Here in this city, wars were fought and treaties were signed;familiesstruggled to make ends meet, and when those efforts failed, many left tocasttheir lot with our young nation laying beyond the ocean. Here when faminestruck Irish men and women boarded coffin ships for the hope of a betterlife,and many perished before they could fulfill their dreams.

But from Ireland's tragedy arose triumph. For the Irish whosurvivedthe crossing were strong and they lent theirstrength to America. They never forgot the island where they came fromeither.And today we celebrate, therefore, a double gift -- Ireland's pride inAmericaand America's immense pride in her Irish roots. Each has always made theothera better place. Our relationship has always been generous and giving andgrowing, but never before have we given so much good to one another.

The best moment of all, of course, was the Good Friday Agreement.Theleadership, as I said, of Prime Minister Ahern and Prime Minister Blair,theleaders of the Northern Ireland parties, those who agreed that words --words,not weapons -- should be used to write the future.

I also thank, as the Taoiseach did, George Mitchell and AmbassadorJeanKennedy Smith and all the Americans who worked for that. But again I tellyou,this peace is yours -- yours and no one else's. All the leaders in theworld,all the speeches in the world would not amount to a hill of beans if youhadn'tgone out and voted "yes," and meant it loud and clear with every fiber ofyourbeing.

And as we mourn the losses of Omagh and the three little boys whowerekilled and taken from their parents' arms, remember there will be stilleffortsby the enemies of peace to break your will, to get you to turn back, to get youto lose faith. Don't do it. Don't do it. Remember what it was like whenyouwere here on this day. No matter what happens by the enemies of peace from nowuntil the whole thing is done and right, the way it's supposed to be, andeveryprovision of that agreement is real in the life of Ireland -- no matterwhathappens between now and then, remember what it was like on this day --lookingup this street, looking up that street. This is you at your best. Do notletthem break your will. (Applause.)

Now, free of the demons of the past, you can look to the future.Inless time than has elapsed since my last visit to Ireland in 1995, we allwillbe, like it or not, in a new century, in a new millennium. Nowhere onEarthdoes that new era hold more promise than here in Ireland. Nowhere does thechange of the calendar correspond better to profound changes in the life of apeople.

You know, George Bernard Shaw once quipped that he hoped to be inIreland on the day the world ended, because the Irish were always 50 yearsbehind the times. (Laughter.) Well, Ireland has turned the tables on poor oldMr. Shaw, for today you are in the forefront of every change sweeping theworld.This island is being redefined by new ideas, bringing prosperity and anincreasingly international world view.

You are connected to Europe and the rest of the world in countlessways-- computers, the Internet, faxes, trade, all growing by leaps and boundseveryyear. Perhaps most important, your young people have a strong voice indetermining Ireland's future, and they are making the future in a way thatwillchange Ireland forever and for the better.

I also want to thank you for being more than newly prosperous. Iwantto thank you for not forgetting where you came from and your ties to thelessfortunate. For the Irish people who once new hunger today spare no efforttoaid the afflicted in other places. The Irish people who knew strife athome nowsend peacekeepers every single day to troubled regions around the world. I wishthat every country could be as good and generous and caring to those whohavebeen left out, left behind, downtrodden as the Irish people have been. And Ithank you for that. Don't ever lose that. No matter what good things come toyou, don't ever lose that. (Applause.)

The rest of the world has a lot to learn from an Ireland that is aplaceof inclusion; a place where labor and business and government worktogether,where the young are encouraged to dream and the elderly are respected,wherehuman rights are protected at home and defended abroad. And I suppose Iwouldbe remiss, and I don't want to leave this platform without thanking Ireland forour admiration for the work of your former President, now the UnitedNationsHigh Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. We appreciate her verymuch.(Applause.)

We believe that 21st century Ireland will be an inspiration to therestof the world, and you can see it taking shape right here in Limerick. Theuniversity here, built in our lifetime, has become a magnet for yourbrightestyoung men and women. Here, new jobs are being created, entire industriesbeingbuilt on knowledge alone.

I am very proud that an American company, Dell Computers, has beenableto play such a strong role in this progress. And I thank the Taoiseach and Dellfor their announcement today. I also thank Dell for generously donatingcomputers to the schools at Omagh after last month's tragedies.(Applause.)

Now that you have given me the Freedom of the City, I can say, "myfellow citizens." (Applause.) Standing here on these streets on thisfine,late summer day, we cannot possibly know all the changes the new millennium willbring. But I believe at the end of another 1,000 years, Limerick andWesternIreland will still face out toward and reach out toward America. And IknowAmerica will never turn away. Three years ago in Dublin I promised thepeopleof Ireland that as long as Ireland walks the road of peace, America willwalkwith you. You have more than kept your part of the deal and we will keepours.(Applause.)

When I was preparing for this trip I got to thinking that when myownancestors left for America from Ireland theywere longing for a new world of possibilities. They were longing for thechanceto begin again. Ireland's great glory today is that you had the courage tobegin again. And in so doing, you have opened limitless tomorrows for yourchildren. You have redeemed the beauty of the Irish countryside. You haveredeemed the power of Irish poetry. You have redeemed the loving faith ofSaintPatrick. This island is coming home to itself.

In an old Irish tale, Finn MacCumhal says, "The best music in theworldis the music of what happens." What happens here today is quite wonderful.

Never let the music die in your heart, and it will always play out in yourlives. And America will be there every step of the way.

Thank you and God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)

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