[Congressional Record Volume 154, Number 70 (Wednesday, April 30, 2008)]
[House]
[Pages H2860-H2863]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




 ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY BERTIE AHERN, THE TAOISEACH, PRIME MINISTER 
                               OF IRELAND

  Prime Minister AHERN. Madam Speaker, Senator Byrd, Members of 
Congress, Senator Kennedy, Chairman and Past Chairman of the Friends of 
Ireland, Mr. Neal and Mr. Walsh, my distinguished predecessor as 
Taoiseach, Ambassador Bruton, distinguished guests:
  Thank you for your kind introduction. Your invitation to address this 
joint meeting this morning honors my country and honors 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.
  I know, Madam Speaker, like so many others assembled here, you share 
many links with Ireland and with County Wicklow in particular. A famous 
son of Wicklow, the son also of an American mother, Charles Stewart 
Parnell, stood in this place 128 years ago, the first Irish leader to 
do so. 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. Beginning with the Irish-Scots in the 17th 
and 18th centuries, they came from all corners of our island and from 
all creeds. The Irish helped to build America. The very bricks and 
stones in this unique building were quarried and carried by the hands 
of Irish immigrant laborers.

[[Page H2861]]

A sculptor of Scots-Irish descent, Thomas Crawford, created the figure 
of Freedom, the statue later raised to the top of this famous dome here 
on Capitol Hill. It reminds us all of the shared values of democracy 
and freedom which inspired both our journeys towards independence--the 
values that shine as a beacon of light and that stand strong as a city 
upon the hill among all the nations of the earth. That statue also 
tells our Irish immigrant story--a story which is an indelible part of 
America's own story of immigration, of struggle and of success.
  The great waves of Irish immigration in the 19th century carried 
millions to your shores in flight from famine and despair. They carried 
little with them as they arrived on these shores, except a 
determination to work hard and to succeed. In the words of the poet 
Eavan Boland, that eloquent voice of America and Ireland, they had:

     Their hardships parceled in them.
     Patience. Fortitude.
     Long suffering in the bruise-colored dusk of the New World.
     And all the old songs.
     And nothing to lose.

  To them, and the legions of others who came before and after, America 
was more than a destination. It was a destiny. We see the same spirit 
in the New Irish at home today--the many people from beyond our shores 
who are now making new lives in Ireland. They too had the courage to 
come to a foreign place, to find their way and to provide for 
themselves, for their children and, in many cases, for their families 
far away.
  The New Ireland--once a place so many left--is now a place to which 
so many come. These newcomers to our society have enriched the texture 
of our land and of our lives. We are working, as are you, to welcome 
those who contribute to our society as they lift up their own lives, 
while we also address the inevitable implications for our society, our 
culture, our community and our way of life.
  So we are profoundly aware of those challenges as we ask you to 
consider the case of our undocumented Irish immigrant community in the 
United States today. We hope you will be able to find a solution to 
their plight that would enable them to regularize their status and open 
to them a path to permanent residency.
  There is, of course, a wider issue for Congress to address. And it is 
your definitive right to address it in line with the interests of the 
American people. I welcome the wise words of your President when he 
addressed you on the State of the Union earlier this year and said he 
hoped to find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here 
illegally, to resolve a complicated issue in a way that upholds both 
America's laws and her highest ideals. On this great issue of 
immigration to both our shores, let us resolve to make the fair and 
rational choices, the practical and decent decisions, so that in the 
future people will look back and say: They chose well. They did what 
was right for their country.
  Madam Speaker, for millions across the globe, the great symbol of the 
freedom and the welcome of America is the Statue of Liberty and the New 
York City skyline. The promise inscribed there says so much about this 
country:

     Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning 
           to breathe free,
     The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
     Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
     I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

  Annie Moore was one of those who heard that promise. She was a young 
Irish girl, aged only 15, from County Cork. She was the first immigrant 
to pass through the Ellis Island immigration station when it was 
officially opened in 1892. She came here with her brothers to make a 
new life in America. Her story is one among millions. The Irish are to 
be found in the police departments and the firehouses, 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.
  My friends, 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 County Leitrim, rushed to the World Trade Center 
to help those who were in danger and to minister to the injured and the 
dying. Along with so many other good, innocent people, Father Mike died 
inside the Twin Towers that day. He was officially designated Victim 
No. 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 honored to be joined here today by some of Father Mike's 
comrades from the New York Fire Department and the New York Police 
Department. I want to thank Officer Steven McDonald of the New 
York Police Department and Chief Robert Sweeney of the New York Fire 
Department for being with us. I honor them and all of their fallen 
comrades--those who fell on that day and all who have fallen during 
their duty to serve the people.

  There was a national day of mourning in Ireland after 9/11. Every 
city, town and village fell silent in remembrance of the dead. The 
names on the casualty list of the terrorist attack included Boyle, 
Crotty, Collins, Murphy, McSweeney, and O'Neill--our names, the names 
of our families and our friends, the names of our nation. There are 
many other names, too, from many other nations. Those attacks were an 
attack on the free nations of the world and on humanity itself. No 
words of mine then or now can adequately address such an immense 
tragedy. But I could not come to this place today without pausing to 
reflect and to remember and honor those who died on that day. Our 
hearts and prayers remain with their families. Ar Dheis De go raibh a 
n-anam dilis go leir.
  Madam Speaker, the relationship between Ireland and the United States 
continues to grow from strength to strength. It proceeds from all that 
has gone before, but it also thrives on the changes and new challenges 
which we must face together. 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 the 50 States of 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. Our 
relationship is also part of a broader relationship between Europe and 
America. The Atlantic Ocean will always bring Europe and America 
together. I do not see the Atlantic as something that keeps America and 
Europe apart. Ireland, as Europe's most westerly state with so many 
ties to the United States, is a bridge between Europe and America.
  I ask you to consider what has been achieved in Europe in the past 50 
years. We have put aside hostilities that led to countless wars over 
the centuries and to two world wars in the last century alone. We have 
created a European Union of 27 democratic states, committed to 
democracy, peace and freedom. We are committed to an open market and to 
a single currency that benefits hundreds of millions of European 
citizens. We all recall two great Irish Americans--President Kennedy in 
1963 and President Reagan in 1987--standing at the Berlin Wall during 
the Cold War and calling out for freedom in Germany and in Europe. That 
call was heard, as freedom's call always will be. Berlin is now at the 
heart of a united, democratic Germany.
  On the 1st of May, 2004, in my native city in Dublin, 10 new members 
formally joined the European Union. Many of them were emerging from 
behind the Iron Curtain after decades of oppression. I remember the 
intensity of the emotions. For many of these countries, this was a 
moment that was unthinkable only a few years before. Along with Berlin, 
the great cities of Prague, Budapest and Warsaw have joined Dublin, 
London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Vienna as capital cities within a free 
and democratic European

[[Page H2862]]

Union. The Union now stretches from the beautiful west coast of 
Ireland, where the locals say that the next parish is America, to 
countries with a land frontier with Russia and Ukraine. I passionately 
believe in Europe and I passionately believe in the European Union as a 
force for good in the world. It is profoundly encouraging that we are 
seeing the members of the European Union continuing to rise together as 
a force for development, for stability, for peace in the world. Soon, 
the Irish people will vote on a new reform treaty that aims to make the 
European Union work even more effectively, both internally and in the 
wider world. I trust in their wisdom to support and to believe in 
Europe, as they always have.
  My friends, between America and Europe, there is contrast, but not 
contradiction. Energized by a common framework of values and imbued by 
democratic principles, together we can and we shall be a beacon for 
economic progress, individual liberty, and the dignity of all mankind. 
Acting in partnership, there are few limits to the good we can do. We 
are all citizens of the world. We must, therefore, develop a true 
spirit of global citizenship. This cannot and should not be an 
alternative to national pride and patriotism, but rather a complement 
to it. We should care for our planet as much as we care for our 
country. We should champion peace, justice and human rights across the 
globe as well as at home. It is an affront to our civilization that 
there are children, anywhere in the world, who will die of hunger or of 
a curable disease.
  In this year of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of 
Human Rights, it angers us that some corners of the world remain hidden 
from the light of the universal principles expressed so eloquently in 
that document. Although a small country, Ireland has always sought to 
play a full part on the international stage. We have consistently 
advocated acting in accordance with the principles of democracy, the 
rule of law, human rights and human dignity. Ireland believes in 
multilateral institutions. We believe in the United Nations. We believe 
in the European Union. And we believe in multilateral action. For over 
half a century, Irish men and women have served the cause of peace 
under the United Nations flag. They have served in the Congo and in 
Lebanon, on the borders between Israel and Syria, and between Iraq and 
Iran, in Cyprus, in Eritrea, in Liberia, in East Timor, in Bosnia, in 
Kosovo and, of course, in Afghanistan today. Tragically, some have paid 
the ultimate price and they have given their lives in that noble 
service.
  Madam Speaker, never has the expression ``the global village'' been 
more appropriate. The great challenges that we face in the 21st century 
are truly global. Falling financial markets, rising food and energy 
prices and climate change are global phenomena. Eradicating poverty, 
starvation and disease, countering international terrorism and 
containing nuclear proliferation are not national but international 
issues. They cannot be overcome except by countries working together. 
In many ways, the modern world is a much better place, but it remains a 
dangerous place. The values we share are our strength and our 
protection.
  Forty years ago, the threat of nuclear war hung over the world. Not 
least through the wisdom of America's leaders at crucial moments, we no 
longer live every day under that shadow. Ireland was at the forefront 
of efforts at the time to agree to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. 
Today, there are new possibilities for mass devastation. The need for 
concerted international action to prevent the proliferation of nuclear 
weapons technology is no less urgent now than it has been in the past.
  Madam Speaker, in Ireland today, we are looking out from our own 
shores more than ever before--no longer with thoughts of exile but to 
be part of the world. Connected to it, contributing to it, learning 
from it. The long and proud tradition of Irish missionaries, of 
teachers, of nurses and of doctors working around the globe to combat 
poverty, hunger and disease continues today. For us, famine and 
oppression are not tragedies that could only happen elsewhere. They 
happened to us at a sad time in our history. They happened to those who 
fled here and helped build America and to the many who did not survive 
that fateful journey across the ocean. For that more than any other 
reason, we recognize our obligation to share what we have with the poor 
of the world. That is why Ireland is committed to reach the United 
Nations aid target by 2012. Today, we are the sixth largest per capita 
donor of development assistance in the world. The strength of our 
efforts to tackle poverty, to cure disease and to feed the hungry in 
the developing world is a measure of our common humanity.

  At this moment in our history, that common humanity is being tested 
in parts of the continent of Africa--in countries like Sudan and Chad, 
where lives have been lost on a terrible scale, where countless 
families have been driven from their homes, where conflict threatens a 
whole region with chaos and destruction.
  Today, Irish soldiers are in Chad as part of a United Nations-
mandated force, led by an Irish officer, protecting hundreds of 
thousands of refugees fleeing from conflict in that country and in 
neighboring Darfur.
  America has shown the way in its commitment to healing the conflict 
in Sudan and to Africa as a whole. You have shown the way also in your 
enormous investment in the fight against HIV, AIDS and malaria. And you 
have given huge support and leadership to the peace process in the 
Middle East. That terrible conflict has been a central challenge to the 
world, and a cause of pain and suffering to the Israeli and the 
Palestinian people for far too long. We must succeed in our collective 
international efforts to secure a peaceful future for the people of 
Israel and of Palestine.
  Madam Speaker, 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 and harmony. That is far more powerful than any words 
of hatred or any weapon of terror.
  In 1981, in much darker days for my country, the Friends of Ireland 
in the United States Congress were founded. Their simple purpose was to 
seek a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland. The statement, placed 
in the Congressional Record during a session chaired by Speaker Tip 
O'Neill, read: ``We look forward to a future St. Patrick's Day, one 
that we can foresee, when true peace can finally come and Irish men and 
women everywhere, from Dublin to Derry, from Boston and New York to 
Chicago and San Francisco shall hail that peace and welcome the dawn of 
a new Ireland.''
  On St. Patrick's Day 2008, a few short weeks ago, I came here to 
Washington. I came with a simple and an 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.
  Madam Speaker, our dream, and the dream of all 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 traveled with us, we offer our heartfelt gratitude. We 
also recognize the steadfast support of President Bush, of President 
Clinton, their administrations, their envoys and of their predecessors. 
And, of course, for us, the great Senator George Mitchell.
  Beyond Washington, there are so many others, whether amongst the 
dedicated leaders of Irish America, or in the smallest towns and 
communities across this great Nation, who have supported us, and who 
never gave up hope that a solution would be found and that peace would 
come. We have all shared that journey together. When we needed true 
champions of peace, when we needed true friends, when we needed 
inspiration, we found them here. We found them among you. Many of us

[[Page H2863]]

found inspiration in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose live we 
recall this year on the 40th anniversary of his death. We believed, to 
borrow Dr. King's immortal phrase, that we would be able to transform 
the jangling discords into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. His 
dream, born of America but heard by the whole world, inspired us 
through its unanswerable commitment to justice and to nonviolence. We 
discovered that peace can be found without suspending your moral 
judgment, without sacrificing your identity and without surrendering 
your most deeply held political aspirations.
  Today, as I stand before you in this great democratic assembly, I 
struggle to convey the enormous good that was done by so many people in 
my country, with your help. Do not underestimate the good that you have 
done. Do not forget the legacy that 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.
  Madam Speaker, there is, of course, no ending to history. We will 
always have new problems, new challenges and new opportunities. We are 
seeing an ever-increasing range of new technological and scientific 
developments, which are created and diffused at ever-greater speeds. 
Our societies are increasingly diverse. Side by side with great wealth 
and prosperity, we still see social exclusion and poverty. We endeavor 
to help families and communities ravaged by a minority who engage in 
crime or deal in drugs. We strive to deliver quality, affordable health 
care to all our people. We want the best education for our children. We 
seek to provide social protection and security for our older people, to 
recognize what they have given to help create our successful societies.
  These are the challenges for modern Ireland, just as they are 
throughout America and across the developed world. These are the very 
essence of politics. That is why, with all our faults as human beings, 
we seek the honor of representing the people. We believe that diversity 
does not have to mean fragmentation or discord. We believe that wealth 
and prosperity does not have to be accompanied by poverty and 
inequality. We believe that evil or injustice need not--and will not--
triumph. We believe--we insist--that all that is good and just is also 
possible. We believe in our republics and our forms of government, in 
which the sovereign power resides in the whole body of the people, and 
is exercised by representatives elected by the people.
  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.
  Madam Speaker, I will shortly step down from the office of Taoiseach 
after almost 11 years. I am honored to have been elected by the Irish 
people to serve them in that great office. Tomorrow, as I journey home 
to Ireland for the last time as Taoiseach, I will travel to the great 
city of Boston, Massachusetts. There, I will join my great friend, 
Senator Edward Kennedy, and pay tribute to President Kennedy and to 
Robert Kennedy--great Irishmen, great Americans and great leaders. In 
doing so, I will pay fitting tribute to all the Irish in America.

  On the 6th of May, Madam Speaker, 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. It was not just an Irish battle. 
It was part of a wider European struggle of power, of politics and of 
religion. For centuries after, the two sides on that field remained 
apart and remained divided. 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.
  On that same day, I will go to the President of Ireland, Mary 
McAleese--a woman who rose from the conflict-torn streets of Belfast to 
be elected our head of state and our first citizen. I will offer her my 
resignation as Taoiseach. I will humbly hand over the seal of office 
which I have so proudly held. Finally, on the morning after, in the 
hours before my worthy successor steps forward to stand in my stead, I 
will stand silently at the simple graves of the patriot dead who 
proclaimed Ireland's republic and who fought for Ireland's freedom at 
Easter 1916. There I will discharge my last duty as Taoiseach and pay 
the homage that Ireland owes to those men and those women. And I will 
recall the words of the 1916 Proclamation, so resonant of the United 
States Declaration of Independence and so relevant to humanity around 
the world:
  The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and 
equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to 
pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its 
parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.
  These are the values on which Ireland stands. These are the values by 
which I strive to live. The vindication of these universal values is 
the highest tribute we can pay to those who have gone before and the 
greatest legacy that we can bequeath for those who are yet to come. 
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.
  So let us begin.
  Go raibh mile maith agaibh.
  Thank you for the opportunity.
  [Applause, the Members rising.]
  At 11 o'clock and 40 minutes a.m., His Excellency Bertie Ahern, the 
Taoiseach, Prime Minister of Ireland, accompanied by the committee of 
escort, retired from the Hall of the House of Representatives.
  The Majority Floor Services Chief escorted the invited guests from 
the Chamber in the following order:
  The Members of the President's Cabinet;
  The Acting Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.

                          ____________________