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Toasts at a State Dinner During the Visit of Prime Minister Lynch of Ireland

November 08, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. Prime Minister and Mrs. Lynch, Jack and Mairin, we're delighted to welcome you to the White House again, the first time in your role as the head of a great nation. I know that everyone here who is of Irish descent feels particularly at ease, because—as Jack pointed out to the group of enthusiastic welcomers this morning—the architect of the White House was a very famous Irishman, trained in Dublin, from Kilkenny, named James Hoban. And those of you who have visited Ireland know that this White House bears a very strange and not accidental resemblance to the home of the Irish Parliament. So, we're very delighted to have you here in an. Irish home where many Irish Presidents have served.

Jack Lynch is famous in Ireland for many things: first of all, as an athlete who was noted for his prowess on the playing fields. And he's also famous as a political leader, a man of quiet courage, a gentle man, a man who's a moderate leader, who's strong and courageous.

Our country has benefited greatly from many famous Irishmen as well—Daniel Boone, John Wayne, Bing Crosby, John L. Sullivan, and, in a more modern day, George Meany, Tip O'Neill, and many others that I don't have the time to name. Many assembled in this room are proud of their Irish blood. And I think that one of the most famous, George M. Cohan, expressed it very well when he said that he was "a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam," and later in the same song, "I'm proud of all the Irish blood that's in me." This could be kind of a theme song of many Americans.

Once, when an American visited Dublin, the former mayor, Mayor Briscoe said, "On behalf of 30 million Irishmen, I welcome you to Dublin." And he later said, "I'm talking about 5 million in Ireland and 25 million in the United States." [Laughter] Both figures were slight exaggerations, but we do have 20 million Americans here who are Irish or of Irish descent, and on St. Patrick's Day, Mr. Prime Minister, there are at least 200 million— [laughter] —Americans who are Irish.

Americans are particularly proud of Ireland and what you have done. Not many people, not enough people know that Ireland has the fastest growing economy in Europe—a nation which is now a better and better place to live for young and old; a nation playing a growing leadership role in the councils of Europe and indeed the entire world; a nation which has benefited, as have we, with rapidly increasing American investments; a nation who still sends missionaries and priests to the United States, to Georgia, and to many other parts of the world; a nation that is committed to peace enough to be a demonstrator of courage, whose soldiers now serve in a sacrificial way in the Congo, in Cyprus, in Lebanon; a nation that has indeed found its leadership role in Europe and throughout the world.

Those who know history understand that Ireland was the nurturer of the seed of Western civilization throughout the Dark Ages and has meant so much to our country—in the past, in the present, and will in the future—in our heritage, our belief in freedom, our culture, our love of arts. And we are all proud that Ireland has now been recognized in every nation as occupying a legitimate and well-deserved role of leadership in the political, cultural life of Europe and the world.

Ireland is also a nation which has suffered from bloodshed and division. Ireland is not alone in modern day suffering. I talked to my wife not too long ago, at 6 o'clock our time, which was 6 o'clock in the morning in Thailand. She's now, about 7:30, arrived at one of the refugee camps that she'll be visiting' all during this day, our night, and she'll be exploring ways where our great and prosperous and blessed country can help those who suffer from starvation and persecution.

A little earlier this evening I had to cancel my planned, long-planned trip to Canada, because Americans are suffering from international terrorism in being held against their will, and my responsibility is to protect the lives of Americans in foreign countries and here at home.

Our guest, the Prime Minister of the great nation of Ireland, represents the kind of leadership necessary in a world that's still plagued with suffering and with threats, with violence to the laws of man and God, and with terrorism. He's a man of quiet strength. As I said earlier, as on the playing fields, in his leadership role he's a man of gentleness. He has a firm voice of reason, and because of his quiet strength, Ireland and we and the other nations who look to him for leadership benefit greatly.

I would like for all of you to join me in a toast to Prime Minister and Mrs. Jack Lynch, our friends, to the Irish everywhere, and to the indomitable spirit of their lovely land, which is also our lovely land. To the Irish and to our notable guest of this evening.

THE PRIME MINISTER. Mr. President, Miss Lillian—glad to see you here, delighted you have come—Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen:

When I see the President of the United States using as a script two sides of a small envelope— [laughter] —it ill-behooves me to take out my script here this evening. [Laughter] There are a few points in it that perhaps I would like to refer to it in order to get across to you. And I'd, first of all, like to thank you, Mr. President, for your gracious welcome, for your kind words about my country, about my wife, and about me.

I just want to recall an occasion, oh, some 30 years ago, when a very wellknown American came to Ireland, and he had performed admirably in the Berlin Olympics of 1936, I think it was. His name was Jesse Owens. And he had won the 100, the 220, the relay, and the long jump; he had four Olympic gold medals. And I introduced Jesse Owens as a. great athlete, as a gentleman, and a lot of other things. And when he got up to address the assembly—it was some kind of an athletic seminar—he said, "Thank you, Mr. Lynch, for saying exactly what I had written down for you." [Laughter] Your President has said things about me that I mightn't have written for him, but I know they were too profuse, but certainly about my country, he said nothing that I wouldn't have wanted him to say anyway.

But we have had a gracious welcome here. My wife, Mairin, and I have been especially touched by the warmth of that welcome, and I think the spirit of it emphasized the spirit of America through the ages. Just over 400 years ago, the population of the United States, that is, the area occupied by the United States, was less than the population of my country now. And into this territory people have flowed from all over the world, people of Europe, from Africa, and of Asia, and they have made their home here. And you in America have provided them with the hospitality which all the bounty of nature has made possible and, as well, the virtue of good and just government has secured.

In Europe today, we face the problems that the United States faced many, many years ago. Europe is now integrating, as the States once did. And although the times are not the same, the European Community now has a comity of nations, each acutely conscious of its own sovereignty, but each willing to compromise in the interests of the greater good, as the States once did in America and still do today. But we have our problems in the process of this evolution, problems in which you have given an example for the rest of us to overcome.

I think the United States can be truly said as the world's outstanding example of unity in diversity. And the words in your motto, "E Pluribus Unum," describe not just aspiration but attainment. And we outside the States, those of us in Ireland and in other countries in Europe, look on your achievement with pride and genuinely with pride, since so many of our forebears were part of that achievement. But to you Americans belong the real pride, because you must live every day with the burden and with the responsibility which America's power brings in the world today.

As the President has said, Ireland currently holds the Presidency of the European Community, and in that capacity we represent fellow Europeans at numerous international conferences, including the United Nations. We in Europe see ourselves as a community in an interdependent world, as a potent and growing force, building on our relations with both developing and developed countries in a friendly and a cooperative spirit.

In pursuing this policy, the EEC's relationship with the United Nations is particularly significant. You, Mr. President, have said—and we welcome what you'd said in this respect—that you see European strength and unity not as a threat, but as a boon. The plain truth is that Europe and the United States need each other. Interdependence is not just an empty phrase; it describes a fact.

I don't have to go into the problems that we face together in the world of today: the depletion of resources, the abuse of human rights, the increase in armaments and nuclear proliferation, starvation and global confrontation. We both-not just as a small nation, like Ireland is-but we both, in our capacity as a member of the European Community, with the United States, have to face up to these problems.

We have the problems of new technology, and we're moving into worlds where none of us has ever been: the shift in the balance of trade involving the developing countries—and we must look after them as well—and the demographic changes which can alter the whole structure of a society. And all these problems can be dealt only in a coordinated way, and certainly I can see much damage being done in a return to an oldfashioned protectionism or economic nationalism. You, Mr. President, have expressed time and time again the value to the West and the developing world of Multinational Trade Negotiations designed to avoid just such dangers.

We think that in Ireland we have a special role to play in symbolizing the common interests between the United States and Europe, as well as the great potential still to be tapped in an even closer cooperation between the two continents.

Our island is roughly 200 miles wide, 300 miles long. We're close to the European mainland. We're the closest European country to the United States of America. In fact, there are so many parishes on the west coast of Ireland that describe themselves as the nearest parish to the United States— [laughter] —that one outbids the other—I don't know yet which is. But I think in my part of the country, in the southwest of Cork, we can claim that we really are the closest parish to the United States. [Laughter]

Mr. President, your having spoken from the back of an envelope, as I said, I'd better not have any more recourse to my script, except to say that we are glad we have this opportunity of being here, of being your official guests, glad of the opportunity of representing the European Economic Community here in Washington on this occasion.

Back at home we have some progress to report; we have difficulties. We went into these difficulties today with the President, with the Secretary of State, with the Foreign Relations Committee of the House and of the Senate. I believe one is Foreign Relations and the other is Foreign Affairs; I forget which is which.

But I was glad to see my old friend Tip O'Neill there this afternoon, a man who has given a great lead as far as insight and understanding of the Irish situation is concerned. We welcome that. You, Mr. President, in August 1977, similarly showed the same interest and the same concern.

We're doing fairly well in Ireland. We are proceeding economically. Our population is increasing—which is unusual in Europe at the present time—perhaps not as much as we would like, as there's a story about a lady who, having had six children, people were wondering why she didn't have the seventh. Somebody said to her, "Well, you've produced six beautiful children, terrific assets, a compliment to the nation, and why don't you go ahead?" She said, "No, nothing doing as far as I'm concerned. I read the other day that every seventh child born into the world is a Chinese." [Laughter]

Notwithstanding that admonition, our population is, happily, growing. And more and more of our population are staying at home, with the result that there will be less Hobans, less O'Neills, perhaps even Garters. I think there are about 120 Carters in the Irish telephone directory. There are a few Lynchs. There was a Lynch who in some way contributed to the Declaration of Independence. But there will be less Lynchs coming to the United States in the future. We thank God for that. We thank our association with Europe, and as well, we thank American investment in our country.

Mr. President, I am delighted to be with you. I'm delighted to be your guest. I'm delighted that your mother has come along to join us, because she proved so popular in Ireland that people like me who— [laughter] —we were getting worried about our own particular position, vis-a-vis the electorate. In fact, your son told us today, Miss Lillian, that you want to go back there sometime soon and for a longer period. We hope you do. And the next time you come, will you please bring your son? We'd like to have him as well. [Laughter]

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to join me now in a toast, a toast to the President, Mrs. Carter, and the people of this great nation, the United States of America. As I said on the White House lawn today, "Bail o Dhia ort fein agus ar do chuid oibre," may God's blessing be with you and with your work. To the President of the United States, Mrs. Carter, and the people of the United States.

THE PRESIDENT. I wish I had time to recognize all the great Irish leaders who are here. I'm very delighted that Mr. George Meany is present and Tip O'Neill; Joe Garrahy, Governor; Brendan Byrne, Governor; Leonard Bernstein, right in front of me here; and my mother, who's a real honorary citizen of Ireland. And I've asked my mother, in the absence of my wife, to join us in the receiving line. We look forward to meeting every one of you.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:50 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts at a State Dinner During the Visit of Prime Minister Lynch of Ireland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248783

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