Press Briefing By Press Secretary Mike McCurry

Office of the Press Secretary
(Belfast, Northern Ireland)

For Immediate Release September 3, 1998


Belfast, Northern Ireland

10:45 A.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: (In progress) -- they sat and met withthe President and Prime Minister Blair, kind of a smallconference room setting, with coffee and crumpets being servedupstairs. They met for about 20 minutes. The President began bysaying, what can I do to help? And Trimble and Mallon then gavethe President a pretty thorough briefing on how this Assembly iscoming together, what the immediate steps are that will berequired to make it a functioning entity.

Interestingly, they all agreed that the terroristbombing in Omagh had had almost the precise opposite effect thatthe people who committed the atrocity probably intended. Itreally had brought people together, had stimulated discussions,and helped lead to some of the things that are coming together inand around the President's visit here.

Q This is with Trimble and Mallon, too?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. It has been reported here thatTrimble is now calling a meeting of all the parties and willlikely have some kind of face to face encounter with Adams. Buthe has not said anything publicly about that. But I think I'dprefer to kind of wait and see how he addresses that issue, whichwe imagine he probably will a little bit later.

Prime Minister Blair made several points to thePresident. He said that having the three governments as closelyengaged as we have been over the last several weeks is vital tothe peace process and that should continue. He asked thePresident to continue to use our influence to press upon all theparties the need to be supportive of the peace process, tocontinue on the path that they are on now. He made a specialrequest, which we said we would certainly, do to see if we canisolate any source of financial support in the United States forthe fringe elements who are not part of the peace process.

Obviously, the breakaway splinter factions of theIRA do have some source of support and we agreed that we canidentify and locate and isolate and eradicate those sources ofsupport in the United States. We would obviously want to dothat.

Q Who said that?

MR. MCCURRY: Blair made that point to Clinton.

Q And what was the President's response?

MR. MCCURRY: He fully agreed that we needed to doeverything we can to eradicate support for those who espouseviolence, because violence, as everyone now agrees, is a thing ofthe past, gone and done with, to quote one recent statement. Andthen Prime Minister Blair also stressed the importance ofcontinuing economic aid, noted the work that we have been doingthrough the International Fund for Ireland. The President tookall this in and said he thought it was important for the world tobe able to see the progress that they're making, see this peaceprocess moving forward. He asked several questions of DavidTrimble in particular about how things might unfold in comingdays and got a good sense of what the current thinking is of someof the parties about the peace process.

From there, the President then walked on to the LongHall, and it really is this wonderful long, narrow gallery. It'sno wider than this room right here, but it stretches, gosh, atleast 400-500 feet down the front of the building. And lined upthere we're members of the Assembly from all the parties, kind ofclustered in their party groupings. And the President kind ofworked his way, he's been working his way down the line now.

About a third of the way down were therepresentatives of Ian Paisley's party -- he was not there, buthis son --

Q Paisley was not there?

MR. MCCURRY: Ian Paisley, Jr. was there and othermembers of their group. And they had a very animated discussionwith the President. I didn't overhear it all, but it was -- eachgrouping, as he went down the line, people were very engaged.

Q Were they friendly?

MR. MCCURRY: They had things to say and I'm surethey'll be saying them to you soon enough. (Laughter.) But whatwas interesting was that working the room counter-clockwise wasPrime Minister Blair. And then members of our delegation, someof the members of Congress, Senator Mitchell is up there. Soit's really fascinating. It looks like a college mixer. They'reall kind of talking and scoping each other out.

This is the first time the elected members of thisAssembly have all been together in one place at one time. Andobviously, as they get prepared for the formal convening of anassembly, they'll have to start getting used to working moreclosely with each other in the same room.

Q The Sinn was there?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, they were there. They were thelast group and I think the President is getting to them justabout now.

Q Gerry Adams was there?

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Adams was there. They will now godown -- many of them are departing and are going to be down atthe Waterfront for the event down there.

Q Is the President aware of the release of the --yesterday and how upset members of the family of the boys thatwere killed by them are about this?

MR. MCCURRY: He got a brief briefing on it earlierfrom Jim Steinberg. Jim Steinberg mentioned it in passing. Idon't know if he got the full reaction of the family -- as I'veseen those reported. He's aware of some of that.

Q The President stayed on the plane for a whileafter landing. Was he doing anything particular?

MR. MCCURRY: No, he was getting the last updatebefore we left the plane from Sandy Berger about what we knew atthat point about Swiss Air 111. And we still don't have a lot ofhard information. I checked on the question of what was going onon search and rescue. The Canadians are handling all of thatand, to my knowledge, there's not any U.S. role. We've been incontact with the Canadian government and told them what assets wehave -- and could be made available if they needed it. But Idon't think there's been a request for any assistance.

Q It appears at this point not to be a terroristincident?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't make that judgment at thispoint.

Q Back to here. The short answer to thePresident's question, what can I do to help -- what was theanswer?

MR. MCCURRY: One answer was to remain fully engagedand to use your influence as you have used it to help the partiesto make progress. And obviously, given some of the things thatunfolded in recent days -- the appointment of a decommissioningcontact point by Sinn Fein, Mr. Trimble's announcement of hiswelcoming of Gerry Adams' statement about a permanent end toviolence -- these are things that have come together in andaround the President's trip.

You know, when Presidents of the United Statestravel, it is often an action-provoking journey, and it appearsthat the President's journey here has helped the partiesconcentrate their efforts and to make some progress. And that'sa good thing and something we obviously welcome.

Q Mike, in this 500-foot hallway, Gerry Adams isthere, trimble is there, all those people are there?

MR. MCCURRY: They're all there.

Q They didn't mix?

MR. MCCURRY: Right, they're all kind of in theirown clusters.

Q And the clusters didn't cross-pollinate? Okay.

Q That's a frightening thought.

Q It is a frightening thought. When Blair saidcould you help find a source of funding for those who espouseviolence, were any specific people mentioned?

MR. MCCURRY: No, it was a generalized statementthat they believe that some of these groups like the "real" IRAdo have some sources of support in the United States, and weobviously would -- to the degree we can, and we do have someability under U.S. law to look into that -- we can try to pursuethat. But I'm not aware that they passed on any specificinformation. I'll double-check just to make sure.

Q There's not some specific information he'sacting on?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm --

Q Because the IRA itself, isn't it generallyaccepted that some of their funding comes from the United States?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've worked very, very hard todiscontinue anything that supports violence. Now, Sinn Fein hasraised money in the United States and when Gerry Adams has beenin the United States in the past he's raised money for hispolitical party. But probably other political parties haveraised money in the United States.

Q So that's not considered in the group of peoplewho espouse violence anymore?

MR. MCCURRY: Sinn Fein has made very clear that ithas renounced violence as part of what the whole Good Fridayagreement is about.

Briefings - Sept 3rd

Press Briefing By James Steinberg

Press Briefing By Mike McCurry

The President's Trip to Russia, the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland

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