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Remarks at a Saint Patrick's Day Ceremony With Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland

March 17, 2000

Thank you very much. Thank you, Taoiseach, for your words and your leadership, for the shamrocks and the beautiful Irish crystal. Upstairs in our Residence, there is so much Irish crystal now that sometimes I have guests from other countries that ask me if I've ever been anywhere but Ireland. [Laughter] But I will treasure this always.

I don't suppose the saints in Heaven spend time boasting about their earthly achievements, but if they do, I imagine the other saints can bear no more bragging from Saint Patrick, for no nation has ever lived up more fully to the virtues of its patron saint than has Ireland. Saint Patrick has been described as one of the great saints of the downtrodden and the excluded. And the legendary, large-hearted Irish people are famous for reaching out to the world's less fortunate.

Whenever the troubled places of the Earth have called out for help, the Irish have answered the call, always among the first in economic assistance, disaster relief, peacekeeping. Indeed, in the past four decades, there has never been a day, not a single day, that Irish troops have not stood watch for peace on some distant shore. All of you have paid a price for this. Like all of Ireland, I was saddened by the recent deaths of four young Irish soldiers serving with the United Nations in Lebanon.

As Ireland has committed itself to the cause of peace around the world, it is right that the world, and especially the United States, should commit ourselves to the cause of peace in Ireland.

I repeat today the promise I made in Dublin 4 years ago: America will be with you as you walk the road to peace. We are conscious that Ireland, along with the other parties to the Good Friday accord, made fundamental and principled compromises in the effort to secure a lasting peace. That agreement remains the very best hope we have ever had for achieving peace, and I still believe it will succeed.

And the model of the Good Friday accord represents not just hope for Northern Ireland but hope for so many stricken areas all across the Earth now suffering from sectarian violence. As extraordinary as Ireland's record is in exporting peace and peacekeepers to troubled areas of the Earth, nothing will compare to the gift Ireland gives the world if you can make your own peace permanent and meet the urgent need of the world for proof that a path to peace can be found.

In the sixth year of Saint Patrick's enslavement, he was awakened by a mysterious voice that said: "Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look, your ship is ready." His fateful response to depart immediately and seek his destiny set in motion his vocation to study, to learn, and then return to Ireland to bring faith and peace. By the persuasive force of the spirit, he began to change the warring traditions of the Irish tribes. But his accomplishments, great as they are, remain, after all these centuries, incomplete.

And so I say to you, Taoiseach, your ship is ready. In the smiling eyes of the Irish child, you have all the cause you will ever need to intensify the search for peace. I hope all the leaders and people of Ireland will follow your lead. I hope all those in Northern Ireland, especially, will heed this call. We must fulfill the pastoral mission of Saint Patrick. Nothing is more fitting on this Saint Patrick's Day.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 4:15 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Prime Minister Ahern.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Saint Patrick's Day Ceremony With Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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