Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ireland at Peace - Bertie Ahern

The great day of hope has dawned

The following is an abridged version of the address by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress, Washington DC, yesterday.

Your invitation to address this Joint Meeting this morning honours my country and honours me also. It reaffirms the enduring bonds of friendship and esteem between our two peoples and between our two republics. Those bonds have been built and nurtured and refreshed over the centuries. America and Ireland have something that goes beyond a friendship between countries. To be an Irishman among Americans is to be at home. So, Madam Speaker, I stand here before you as a proud son of Ireland. And I stand with you as a steadfast friend of the United States of America.

Parnell turned to the United States, as have many Irish leaders since, as we strove to emulate the achievements of America and to vindicate the principles that inspired your founding fathers: the principles of liberty, of equality and of justice.
In the early part of the last century, Eamon de Valera came here seeking help as Ireland struggled for her independence. In more recent times, many Irish leaders have come here in the quest for peace in Northern Ireland. Whenever we have asked for help, America has always been there for us -- a friend in good times and in bad.From the very outset, Ireland gave to America presidents, patriots and productive citizens of a new nation.....

The Irish helped to build America.

The New Ireland -- once a place so many left -- is now a place to which so many come....

The Irish are to be found in the police departments and the fire houses, in the hospitals, the schools and the universities, in the board rooms and on the construction sites, in the churches and on the sports fields of America.
Their contribution is seen in much of the great literature, film, art and music that America has given to the world. Each of them is a green strand woven into the American dream.
In all of America, there is Irish America.

On September 11, 2001, some of the most terrible, evil events in world history occurred. Close to Ellis Island, near this very building and in the skies and fields of Pennsylvania.
It is a day that is etched into the memory of all humanity.
On that day, Father Mychal Judge, the chaplain of the New York Fire Department and the son of Irish immigrants from Co Leitrim, rushed to the World Trade Centre to help those who were in danger and to minister to the injured and the dying. Along with so many other good, innocent people, Fr Mike died inside the Twin Towers that day. He was officially designated Victim Number 1. Of course, he was no more important than any other victim. He was just a simple man of faith and of courage trying to help others. In recognition of the bravery of all who died on that terrible day, I am deeply honoured to be joined here today by some of Fr Mike's comrades from the New York Fire Department and New York Police Department. I honour them and all of their fallen comrades -- those who fell on that day and all who have fallen doing their duty to serve the people.
There was a day of national mourning in Ireland after 9/11. Every city, town and village fell silent in remembrance of the dead.

Ar Dheis De go raibh a nanam dilis go leir.

In Ireland, we firmly believe our experience of hardship and of forced emigration is at an end. For that achievement, too, we owe so much to America.
Our two countries are reaping the rewards together. We are investing in each other's economies, bringing together our entrepreneurial energy and creating employment across Ireland and across America. That is the true measure of our economic achievements together. It points to a friendship every bit as strong in the future as it is today.

This year, in Ireland, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a defining moment in Ireland's history. In the years since then, some doubted that the Agreement would endure.
I never did.
I knew it would last because it is built on the highest ideals of democracy -- the ideals of liberty, of equality, of justice, of friendship and of respect for our fellow men and women. Above all, the settlement of 1998 will flourish because of one simple and unalterable fact.It represents the will, democratically expressed, North and South, of all of the people of Ireland to live together in peace. That is far more powerful than any words of hatred or any weapon of terror.

On St Patrick's Day 2008, a few short weeks ago, I came here to Washington. I came with a simple and extraordinary message: That great day of hope has dawned. Our prayer has been answered. Our faith has been rewarded. After so many decades of conflict, I am so proud, Madam Speaker, to be the first Irish leader to inform the United States Congress: Ireland is at peace.

Our dream, and the dream of all of the friends of Ireland in America and across the world, has come true. To you, to your predecessors and to all of the American leaders from both sides of the aisle who have travelled with us, we offer our heartfelt gratitude. We also recognise the steadfast support of President Bush, of President Clinton, their administrations, their envoys and of their predecessors.

Do not underestimate the good you have done. Do not forget the legacy you have forged. And if ever you doubt America's place in the world, or hesitate about your power to influence events for the better, look to Ireland.
Look to the good you have done. Look at the richness of so many individual futures that now stretch out before us for generations, no longer subject to conflict and violence. Look to the hope and confidence that we now feel on our island.
The healing of history. Look and be glad.

An American President once said: "The supreme purpose of history is a better world".
Making a better world is also the supreme purpose of representative politics in our two democratic republics.

I will shortly step down from the office of Taoiseach after almost 11 years.
I am honoured to have been elected by the Irish people to serve them in that great office.

On May 6, I will go to that famous field on the banks of the River Boyne in Ireland where, over three centuries ago, fierce and awful battle was waged between the Protestant King William and the Catholic King James....

Today, both sides, proud of their history and confident of their identity, can come together in peace and part in harmony. They can offer each other the open hand of friendship. They will reaffirm again what Ireland has achieved and what we know in our hearts to be true.
Centuries of war, of strife and of struggle are over, and over for good. The field of slaughter is now a meeting place of mutual understanding.
Our children will live in peace. And their children will enjoy the fruits of their inheritance. This is the triumph of people and of politics. This is the achievement of democracy. The great achievement of Ireland and the great blessing of peace.

There are no finer words with which to finish and upon which to say: In history, in politics and in life, there are no ends, only new beginnings.

Let us begin.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.
A thousand thanks to you.

Read the full speech......

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