[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1999, Book I)]
[March 17, 1999]
[Pages 395-396]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Saint Patrick's Day Luncheon
March 17, 1999

    Well, I'd like to say, first of all, Mr. Speaker, thank you for inviting us here, for a wonderful 
lunch. We welcome all of our friends from Northern Ireland and the 
Republic--[inaudible]--welcome them home.
    Father, we thank you for your invocation 
and for the plug for the town of my roots. You should know that after--
I'm convinced that the chamber of commerce there encouraged this, 
because after the invocation he came over to me and said, ``Don't you 
ever come back to Ireland without going there.'' [Laughter] So I thank 
    Taoiseach, Secretary Albright, Secretary Daley, 
and to all the Members of Congress. I congratulate Senator 
Kennedy on his award from the American 
Ireland Fund.
    The Speaker said something I'd like to pick up on. You know, 
normally, at this time of year, for the last several years, John, David, Gerry, Seamus--somebody's come 
here and thanked some American for supporting the Irish peace process. 
But the truth is that we should all be thanking you, because it's only 
when you come here that you bring us all together--[inaudible]--add to 
that, to your citation. [Laughter] But we're very grateful.
    Let me also say that we look forward to the day when this will be a 
total celebration. What a different year we had this year, Taoiseach, 
because of the Good Friday accords. We're grateful that Senator 
Mitchell was able to take a leading 
role--[inaudible]--all you have done. We know, not only in Ireland but 
indeed in other places, that the closer you get to peace, the more 
desperate the enemies of peace become. And we have seen the tragedy of 
the Omagh bombing. We have seen the tragedy of the murder of Rosemary 
Nelson. We just had another loss last 
    This is perfectly predictable. It happened in the Middle East. I've 
seen it happen all over the world. Whenever people in responsible 
positions stick their necks out, there's always someone who knows the 
best way to rekindle a sense of mistrust necessary to destroy the peace 
is to kill someone and focus on violence.

[[Page 396]]

    Your presence here today is a strong commitment to the peace process 
and therefore gratefully noted. And all I can say is, I think I can 
speak for every Member of Congress in this room without regard to party, 
for every member of our administration--you know that we feel, 
Taoiseach, almost an overwhelming and inexpressible bond to the Irish 
people. We want to help all of you succeed. It probably seems meddlesome 
sometimes, but we look forward to the day when Irish children will look 
at the Troubles as if they were some part of mystic Celtic folklore, and 
all of us who were alive during that period will seem like relics of a 
bygone history.
    We hope we can help you to achieve that. And believe me, all of us 
are quite mindful that it is much harder for you--every one of you here 
in this room who have been a part of this--than it is for us. We don't 
mean to meddle, but we do want to help.
    And we've had a lot of great Speakers of the House who were Irish: 
McCormack, O'Neill, Foley. I think we ought to rename the Speaker 
``O'Hastert'' after--[laughter]--his words today, because they were 
right on point.
    So you know that across all the gulfs of American politics, we join 
in welcoming all of our Irish friends. And right now, I'll ask Taoiseach 
Bertie Ahern to take the floor and give us a 
few remarks.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at approximately noon in Room H207 of the 
Rayburn House Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Father 
Sean McManus, who gave the invocation; Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of 
Ireland; Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume; Ulster 
Unionist Party leader David Trimble; Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams; 
Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon, Northern Ireland Assembly; and 
former Senator George J. Mitchell, who chaired the multiparty talks in 
Northern Ireland.