Remarks at a Saint Patrick's Day Shamrock Presentation Ceremony With Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland
Thank you. Taoiseach, good morning, or, should I say, "Top o' the morning." [Laughter] I'm really pleased that you came back to the White House. I'm looking forward to our discussions. And I cannot thank you enough for your strong leadership in resolving the issues of Northern Ireland, and I stand ready to help.
I gratefully accept the bowl of shamrocks. I am delighted that you have joined us, once again, to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. Saint Patrick's Day is an occasion that unites two distinct groups of Americans: those who are of Irish descent and those who wish they were. [Laughter] Whether they're Irish today or every day, Americans are grateful for our country's Irish heritage and the enduring friendship that exists between Ireland and the United States is strong.
The ties that bind our two nations stretch all the way back to our country's founding. Ireland gave us at least nine signers of the Declaration of Independence and many more who risked their lives to defend it. Irish Americans fought valiantly to preserve the Union in our Civil War. They helped turn back the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. And they're fighting bravely in today's war on terror, risking their lives to secure a future of freedom and peace for generations to come.
Many of Ireland's sons and daughters came to our shores to escape poverty and famine. Once here, they helped us build and strengthen this great Nation with their gifts of industry and talent and faith. Irish workers built our railroads, our cathedrals, and our cities. Irish writers and musicians have enriched our literature and our culture. Irish priests and nuns established parochial schools that have helped generations of children build lives of prosperity and purpose. And with their many contributions, Irish Americans remind us of our heritage as a nation of immigrants and our duty to remain a welcoming society.
In 1783, President George Washington— I refer to him as the first George W.— [laughter]—wrote to recent Irish immigrants in New York that "America is open to receive the oppressed and persecuted of all nations," and he expressed his wish that the blessings of equal liberty and unrestrained commerce would one day prevail in Ireland.
Well, today, Ireland is a free, independent, and very prosperous nation. Ireland now has one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. And over the past decade, our two nations have enjoyed a strong and growing trade relationship. And as Ireland prospers, a land whose people came to America seeking a better life is now attracting to its own shores immigrants with those very same dreams.
It has been said that the Irish, like the presence of God, are to be found everywhere. On this Saint Patrick's Day, we're grateful for the presence of the Irish in our country. And we are blessed by your presence here at the White House, Taoiseach. I thank you for coming to help us celebrate Saint Patrick's Day and honor the friendship between our two nations. In the words of the Irish proverb: "May the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight." [Laughter]
Thanks for coming.
NOTE: The President spoke at 9:55 a.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.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Saint Patrick's Day Shamrock Presentation Ceremony With Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/272046