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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald of Ireland at a Dinner Honoring the President in Dublin

June 03, 1984

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, in accordance with long-established custom and given that it's expected of us, let me start on an historical note. We are believed, outside this country, to always plunge back into the depths of history. Well, I'm going to do so, because in the year 1029, King Reagan of Brega inflicted a crushing defeat on the Vikings of Dublin. [Laughter]

The victor demanded as ransom for the Viking king, Olaf Sitricsson, the following: 1,200 cows, 6 score Welsh horses—I don't know why Welsh—60 ounces of gold, 60 ounces of pure silver, and all the "Irishmen of Leinster and of the North" who were being held prisoner in Dublin on this very site, then the fortress of the Viking city.

Fortunately for us FitzGeralds, we didn't arrive for another 140 years— [laughter] when the Reagans, having in the meantime failed in a bid for the High Kingship of Ireland—you made it on a second try, playing on a different field—had become less powerful. And fortunately for us, because I doubt if my family could have bought themselves out of a Reagan jail at that price. [Laughter]

We, the FitzGeralds, do, however, owe the Reagans one important debt. For it was one, Malachy Reagan, then Latin secretary to a rather well-known king of Leinster-whom I don't need to and would prefer not to name—who wrote to us inviting us over here in 1169. [Laughter] The Irish people 800 years later are, I need hardly tell you, deeply grateful. [Laughter] Isn't that right[inaudible]? [Laughter]

Mr. President, your great-grandfather and my grandfather left for London from two places divided 7 miles apart a century and a quarter ago. They both married Irish wives, in the very same church in that city, Southwark Cathedral. And thereafter their paths divided, bringing us by very different routes to the leadership of our respective governments.

Since they both left Ireland, much has happened in this small country. Much of it has been good. An independent Irish State has come into existence that is now respected by the nations of the world. Literature in the English language has since been transformed by towering Irish figures such as Shaw and Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce. And the grinding poverty in which our people lived three generations back has been replaced by a modest prosperity, as you will have seen traveling through Mayo and Galway and Tipperary and flying over other counties.

This modest prosperity has not marred the beauty and calm of our countryside, which continues to draw hundreds of thousands of your compatriots as welcome visitors to our shores.

Most significantly for the future, the last decade has seen the growth in Ireland of high technology industry—the vast bulk of it the fruit of U.S.. investment here, now in total amounting to over $4 billion and employing one in six of our manufacturing labor force. Ireland's share of Europe's high technology activity is now totally disproportionate to our size and population. We are well on the way to becoming a Silicon Valley in Europe, as your investors match their inventiveness with the special skills and enthusiasm of our dynamic, well-educated labor force—the youngest in Europe.

There is, of course, another side to this picture—one of heavy unemployment as the worldwide recession, now lifting in your country, continues to take its toll in Europe and, particularly, in this island. And we also have our own specific economic and financial problems. We'll have an opportunity to discuss some of these issues together tomorrow.

But worst of all, we have within this island a conflict that threatens the peace and stability of this corner of Europe, one that has brought tragedy to thousands of homes in Northern Ireland and to many here, also, and in Britain. This is a conflict of two traditions, two identities in this island, but first and foremost, within Northern Ireland.

You are aware, Mr. President, of the work of the New Ireland Forum, launched in this great hall, and you have commented supportively on it. The New Ireland Forum made only one set of proposals in its report. It used the word "proposes" only once. It proposes, as necessary elements of a framework within which a new Ireland could emerge, a set of requirements, a list of "musts," centered on the need to accommodate each of the two Irish traditions equally satisfactorily in new structures. I'm deliberately availing of this important occasion to emphasize this point, because it has, perhaps, not been fully understood.

The Forum goes on to express the belief—the belief, not the demand—of nationalists that unity offers the best solution and our further preference that the particular form of unity we would wish to see established is a unitary state, achieved by agreement and consent. That is our belief, our strong preference; it is not a demand. We set out our best arguments in favor of this preference, but we also set out the arguments in favor of two quite different alternatives that we considered: a federal-confederal state and joint authority. And most significantly of all, we committed ourselves to being open to discuss other views which may contribute to political development. Nothing, I believe, could be more open than that approach.

The report of the New Ireland Forum is, as I have said, an agenda, not a blueprint. We know that you and our European friends want, in an appropriate way, to help to end this tragedy. The people of Northern Ireland have suffered far too much. They deserve and they need our help and yours.

You will forgive me, Mr. President, for having dwelt for some minutes on a problem that is so close to our hearts, so everpresent to our minds. It is, alas, only one of the many problems of violence and threats of violence in the world today—problems to which you and I will be turning our thoughts together tomorrow morning.

Dominating everything, of course, is the issue of East-West relations, the arms race and, in particular, the nuclear menace that threatens life on this planet. Here, above all, as we have indeed been discussing together the last few minutes, there's an absolute need for dialog between the superpowers, for the reopening of channels of communication that have become clogged, for the creation, if it can be achieved, of the kind of trust and confidence upon which alone world peace can be built. We look forward to hearing you speak on aspects of these problems to the joint session of the Houses of Oireachtas [Parliament] tomorrow.

Ireland is a small country with a nightmare past. More than most people, therefore, we are deeply concerned at the violent tyranny that tears apart small countries like Afghanistan, at the repression that seeks to still the powerful instinct for freedom in Eastern European countries like Poland, and at the deprivation of human rights in so many countries of Latin America. With many of these Latin American countries our people have close emotional ties through the work of our priests and nuns and lay helpers there who seek to relieve the poverty of the people and to give them back their dignity of which they've been deprived by oppressive regimes. Our people's deep concern is that these problems be resolved peacefully by the people of the region themselves—in Central America, along the lines proposed by the Contadora countries. In this connection, I might add that many people in Ireland have been most heartened by the news of Secretary Shultz's visit to Nicaragua on Friday last and hope that this may lead to the restoration of normal relations between that small state and your great country, thus enhancing the climate for peace and democracy in that troubled region.

Mr. President, in 4 weeks time Ireland takes over the responsibilities of the Presidency of the European Community. It will be our task to bring to a conclusion the negotiations to enlarge the Community by admitting Spain and Portugal as members and to complete the negotiations for the new convention between the EEC and the African, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific countries. We should also be seeking during this Presidency to secure agreement to a more coherent organization of the economic policies of our member States so as to take fuller advantage of the recovery that has been taking place in the United States. Hopefully, this task may be made somewhat easier by the discussions that you will be having with other major economic powers in London this week.

Mr. President, there's another task we should also tackle. Just as in our first Presidency of the European Community in 1975, it fell to me as President of the Council of Ministers of the Community to establish and get working the new system of political consultation between Europe and America that had been decided upon in the previous year, so in this new Irish Presidency we shall endeavor to reconcile economic differences between Europe and America and to secure a greater convergence of views on foreign policy issues.

There are few tasks that the Irish Government could look forward to with as much enthusiasm or commitment. After all, our own relations with your great country are based first on human considerations, on people, rather than on the cold concerns of policy. It is on that human dimension, on such old, enduring, and unquenchable friendships that the hope of our world can best rely today.

Mr. President, your visit to your homeland has reinforced and revitalized that precious bond. I ask all here to raise their glasses in a toast to the President of the United States and Mrs. Reagan.

The President. Prime Minister and Mrs. FitzGerald, my Irish friends, Nancy and I are delighted to be here in the homeland of my ancestors and delighted to be with all of you this evening. The magnificent green of your hills and meadows, likewise, the warmth and kindredship of your people during our visit has touched us deeply. May I offer in return a heartfelt thank you from both Nancy and me.

Every American, even those not lucky enough to be of Irish background, has much to be grateful for in the Isle of Erin. I think I have some firsthand knowledge of this. You see, I currently—Nancy and I reside in a house that was designed by an Irishman. [Laughter]

We all know the Irish names and the lists of their achievements in our government, going all the way back to our Revolutionary history. Not only have Ireland's own had great impact on America, but the opposite has also been true.

The cross-pollination of American and Irish liberty is truly an historic phenomenon. Benjamin Franklin, a preeminent influence on the course of American democracy, visited here during our Revolutionary period. As Prime Minister FitzGerald pointed out to me during his last visit to Washington, more than just a "couple" of American Presidents—and one which I will not mention—descend from this land.

On the other side of the coin, individuals significant to the development of Irish liberty were much affected by what was happening in America. Daniel O'Connell, a nationalist hero and a true humanitarian, was influenced by our great pamphleteer, Thomas Paine. And the great parliamentarian, Charles Stewart Parnell, journeyed to America as a youth, a journey which may well have colored his political views of the world. And, of course, Eamon de Valera, your third President, was actually born in the United States. .

And yet, with our countries so close, there are some influences we're not so proud of. And I believe I speak for all Americans of Irish descent who now hold elected office when I join you in condemning any misguided American who supports terrorists in Northern Ireland. I want to offer my thanks to Prime Minister FitzGerald for his strong stand on this issue. When he last visited Washington, he articulated a message of conviction and courage and, by doing so, I'm sure has saved some innocent lives.

Oscar Wilde had a comment on war that is also applicable to terrorism. He said, "When it is looked upon as vulgar," Wilde said, "it will cease to be popular."

The American people overwhelmingly support peaceful efforts to reconcile the differences between the two traditions on this island. We pray there will be a new dawn, that it will come soon, when both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland can live in the sunlight of a peaceful and just society.

We're following, with keen interest, the efforts that your government has been making, and we wish you success. We especially welcome the hard work and thought that went into the New Ireland Forum's report. We hope it will strengthen Anglo-Irish cooperation in resolving the Northern Ireland problem through a peaceful reconciliation.

Ireland, even with this problem at home, has been exerting an admirable influence internationally. As peacekeepers, working within the structure of the United Nations, you've taken great risks for peace. Your bilateral development assistance to less fortunate countries is a tribute to your generosity and your humanitarianism, as is the personal dedication of Irish men and women engaged in voluntary service throughout the world.

Ireland has had an active and respected role in the European Community. We look forward to consulting closely with your government during Ireland's forthcoming Presidency of the European Community Commission. Ireland has always promoted an open and meaningful dialog between the United States and the member States of the Community, and I know we can count on a continuation of that fine and very practical tradition.

We respect Ireland's independent course in international affairs. We respect Ireland's contributions, which were predicted by President Kennedy, as a maker and shaper of world peace. And we respect the democratic and humanitarian values embodied in your actions. Taoiseach [Prime Minister], our people have a common love of freedom and a sense of decency that transcends political consideration. In many respects, my journey here is a celebration of our ties and ideals, as well as of family. They are ties that secure our friendship and ensure our good will.

That Thomas Paine that I mentioned a moment ago said—and I think that all of us should take this to heart—he said that the opportunity is ours; we have it in our power to start the world over again. And I think we share another ideal. What is our goal when we talk of ideologies and philosophies? It is one, very simple: the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with an orderly society. That is our goal.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to the President [Prime Minister] of Ireland.

Note: Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald spoke at 10 p.m. in Dublin Castle.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald of Ireland at a Dinner Honoring the President in Dublin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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