Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland Reception

May 25, 1995

Thank you very much. Let me welcome all of you again and say a special word of welcome to Deputy Prime Minister Spring, Sir Patrick Mayhew, Ambassador Gallagher, Ambassador Renwick, Ambassador Crowe, Ambassador Smith, to Senator Mitchell, to the people who are here from the International Fund for Ireland. Let me say a special word of thanks to the Chairman, Willie McCarter, and to my good friend and appointee Jim Lyons. And let me remind all of you that, appropriately enough, the band that just entertained us is known as Celtic Thunder. We arranged the Irish weather here tonight—[laughter]—to remind you that we are all here under a very large tent in more ways than one.

If yesterday and today all of us have done what we set out to do, then we will all be sharing the same hopes and joining the same work for the future of Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland. We are especially committed to the economic revival of the people who live there, all of the people who live there.

We know that many people will be skeptical about the possibilities of peace and others will be skeptical about the possibilities of economic progress. George Bernard Shaw once recognized that skepticism about economic matters dies hard, and since he had a foot in Ireland and a foot in England, I thought I would remind you of what he said. He said, "If you lined up end to end all the economists in the world, you still would not reach a conclusion." [Laughter] I think today even Mr. Shaw would share our optimism.

I hope that this conference stirred your thoughts and your imagination for the future, that you have had an opportunity to exchange ideas and plans, that you will act on the things that you have thought about and dreamed about here. The people who are gathered here have the opportunity to make all your ideals real.

We in government can make a difference in political negotiations as the first bridge between groups that history has separated. We can be a catalyst for change. But sustained progress will require more. It demands the engagements of all the major groups within society, the companies that provide the economic lifeblood, the churches, the political parties, the civic associations.

Already there has been tremendous progress. We can see that in the desire for peace that runs throughout Northern Ireland and—let me emphasize this—in the work of the 200 community and civic leaders who traveled here at their own great expense to advance the cause of reconciliation. We thank them especially for being here. These men and women are on the frontlines bringing down the barricades, bringing together the people of the Shankill and the people of the Falls.

I want to thank, as well, the Irish-American community, the business community, and the nongovernmental organizations. You have risen to the task. Now let me say that, as I thank you—is the sound off? That's good, because I'm almost through. [Laughter]

I asked you here tonight mostly to celebrate and not to hear another speech. I ask you to remember that the United States is always with you.

Just behind me here, through the—you can almost see them, even through the plastic cover—are the two oldest trees at the White House, two grand magnolias planted over 165 years ago by Andrew Jackson, the son of an immigrant farmer from the Carrickfergus in County Antrim. Every day I look at those two old trees and think about our Nation's past and our Nation's future. Today I will look at them with fresh eyes to think about Ireland's past and Ireland's future, the future of the people of Northern Ireland and the people of Ireland.

Thank you all. Good luck. God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:19 p.m. on the South Grounds at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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