[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[September 5, 1998]
[Pages 1537-1540]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks in Limerick, Ireland
September 5, 1998

    Audience member. Welcome, Mr. Clinton!
    The President. Thank you. I feel welcome. Thank you. Mayor 
Harrington, City Manager Murray, Taoiseach, Celia, to the university 
rectors, to the officials of the Irish and American Governments and the 
distinguished Members of our Congress who have accompanied me here. Let 
me say on behalf of my wife and myself and all of us who have come from 
America, you have made us feel very much at home in Limerick, and we 
thank you.
    I would like to thank the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and Michael 
O'Suilleabhain, who performed before I came. I would like to thank 
everyone who did anything to make this possible. I especially thank you 
for the Freedom of the City. I told the mayor that I was relieved to 
have the Freedom of the City here. It means when I'm no longer President 
and I come back

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to Ireland, I won't have to stay in Dublin alone; I can come to 
Limerick, too. And I thank you.
    I thank the universities for the rectors' award. The work of peace 
is always a community effort. I am pleased that the United States could 
play a role. But for all your generosity today, make no mistake about 
it, the major credit for the peace process belongs to the Irish--to the 
people, to the people who voted for the Good Friday agreement, to the 
leaders of the various groups in Northern Ireland who supported it, to 
the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and to your extraordinary 
Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who has been brilliant in his leadership in 
this endeavor.
    Let me also echo something the mayor said. We have this wonderful 
delegation from the United States Congress here who have loved Ireland 
and worked and longed for peace here for many years. But one of them 
actually has his roots and some of his relatives here in Ireland, 
Congressman Peter King, who is here with his relatives today. So thank 
you, Peter. And I think you have--[applause]--thank you.
    Ladies and gentlemen, 35 years ago, in June of 1963, President 
Kennedy came to Limerick and promised he would return in the springtime. 
He was not able to fulfill that promise. But I appreciate the 
opportunity to renew it, and to thank you for the springtime of hope the 
Irish people have given the entire world in 1998.
    You see, a great deal of my time as President is spent dealing with 
the troubles people cause themselves around the world when they hate 
their neighbors because of their religious, their racial, their ethnic, 
their tribal differences. I saw hundreds of thousands of people die in 
Rwanda in a matter of months over tribal differences. We see the 
continuing heartbreak in the Middle East, the trouble in the Balkans 
spread from now Bosnia to Kosovo. We see trouble in the Aegean, trouble 
on the Indian subcontinent, trouble the world over, because people 
cannot understand that underneath whatever differences their neighbors 
have with them, there lurks the common humanity in the soul of us all.
    Because of what you have done in Ireland in 1998, you have made it 
possible for me, on behalf of the United States and the cause of peace 
in the world, to tell every warring, feuding, hating group of people 
trapped in the prison of their past conflicts to look at Ireland and 
know there can be a better day. Thank you for that.
    I came here, too, to Limerick and to western Ireland to see this 
historic point of embarkation for the New World, where the Shannon 
approaches the Atlantic and so many faces turned in hope to America over 
the years. I wanted to remember our common pasts and to imagine for a 
few moments with you the future we can build together. For the last 
decade is only a tiny portion of Irish history, though it has witnessed 
a sea change in the life of the Irish people. The demons of the past are 
losing their power to divide you, and a new and better and more 
prosperous history is unfolding before you.
    You mentioned the McCourt brothers from Limerick who did grace the 
White House last St. Patrick's Day. Now I'll have to go home and tell 
Frank McCourt, ``You know, Frank, you made a lot of money writing about 
the old Limerick, but I like the new one better, and I think you would, 
    Here in this city, wars were fought and treaties were signed, 
families struggled to make ends meet, and when those efforts failed, 
many left to cast their lot with our young Nation laying beyond the 
ocean. Here, when famine struck, Irish men and women boarded coffin 
ships for the hope of a better life, and many perished before they could 
fulfill their dreams.
    But from Ireland's tragedy arose triumph, for the Irish who survived 
the crossing were strong, and they lent their strength to America. They 
never forgot the island where they came from, either. And today we 
celebrate, therefore, a double gift: Ireland's pride in America and 
America's immense pride in her Irish roots. Each has always made the 
other a better place. Our relationship has always been generous and 
giving and growing, but never before have we given so much good to one 
    The best moment of all, of course, was the Good Friday agreement--
the leadership, as I said, of Prime Minister Ahern and Prime Minister 
Blair, the leaders of the Northern Ireland parties, those who agreed 
that words--words, not weapons--should be used to write the future.
    I also thank, as the Taoiseach did, George Mitchell and Ambassador 
Jean Kennedy Smith and all the Americans who worked for that. But again 
I tell you, this peace is yours--yours and no one else's. All the 
leaders in the world, all the speeches in the world would not amount

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to a hill of beans if you hadn't gone out and voted ``yes'' and meant it 
loud and clear with every fiber of your being.
    And as we mourn the losses of Omagh and the three little boys who 
were killed and taken from their parents' arms, remember there will be 
still efforts by the enemies of peace to break your will, to get you to 
turn back, to get you to lose faith. Don't do it. Don't do it. Remember 
what it was like when you were here on this day. No matter what happens 
by the enemies of peace from now until the whole thing is done and 
right, the way it's supposed to be, and every provision of that 
agreement is real in the life of Ireland, no matter what happens between 
now and then, remember what it was like on this day: Looking up this 
street, looking up that street, this is you at your best. Do not let 
them break your will.
    Now, free of the demons of the past, you can look to the future. In 
less time than has elapsed since my last visit to Ireland in 1995, we 
all will be, like it or not, in a new century, in a new millennium. 
Nowhere on Earth does that new era hold more promise than here in 
Ireland. Nowhere does the change of the calendar correspond better to 
profound changes in the life of a people.
    You know, George Bernard Shaw once quipped that he hoped to be in 
Ireland on the day the world ended, because the Irish were always 50 
years behind the times. [Laughter] Well, Ireland has turned the tables 
on poor old Mr. Shaw, for today you are in the forefront of every change 
sweeping the world. This island is being redefined by new ideas, 
bringing prosperity and an increasingly international world view. You 
are connected to Europe and the rest of the world in countless ways: 
computers, the Internet, faxes, trade, all growing by leaps and bounds 
every year. Perhaps most important, your young people have a strong 
voice in determining Ireland's future, and they are making the future in 
a way that will change Ireland forever and for the better.
    I also want to thank you for being more than newly prosperous. I 
want to thank you for not forgetting where you came from and your ties 
to the less fortunate. For the Irish people, who once knew hunger, today 
spare no effort to aid the afflicted in other places. The Irish people, 
who knew strife at home, now send peacekeepers every single day to 
troubled regions around the world. I wish that every country could be as 
good and generous and caring to those who have been left out, left 
behind, downtrodden as the Irish people have been. And I thank you for 
that. Don't ever lose that. No matter what good things come to you, 
don't ever lose that.
    The rest of the world has a lot to learn from an Ireland that is a 
place of inclusion, a place where labor and business and government work 
together, where the young are encouraged to dream and the elderly are 
respected, where human rights are protected at home and defended abroad. 
And I suppose I would be remiss and I don't want to leave this platform 
without thanking Ireland for our admiration for the work of your former 
President, now the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 
Mary Robinson. We appreciate her very much.
    We believe that 21st century Ireland will be an inspiration to the 
rest of the world, and you can see it taking shape right here in 
Limerick. The university here, built in our lifetime, has become a 
magnet for your brightest young men and women. Here, new jobs are being 
created, entire industries being built on knowledge alone.
    I am very proud that an American company, Dell Computers, has been 
able to play such a strong role in this progress. And I thank the 
Taoiseach and Dell for their announcement today. I also thank Dell for 
generously donating 100 computers to the schools at Omagh after last 
month's tragedy.
    Now that you have given me the Freedom of the City, I can say, ``my 
fellow citizens.'' Standing here on these streets on this fine late-
summer day, we cannot possibly know all the changes the new millennium 
will bring. But I believe at the end of another thousand years, Limerick 
and western Ireland will still face out toward and reach out toward 
America. And I know America will never turn away. Three years ago in 
Dublin I promised the people of Ireland that as long as Ireland walks 
the road of peace, America will walk with you. You have more than kept 
your part of the deal, and we will keep ours.
    When I was preparing for this trip, I got to thinking that when my 
own ancestors left for America from Ireland, they were longing for a new 
world of possibilities. They were longing for the chance to begin again. 
Ireland's great glory today is that you had the courage to begin

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again. And in so doing, you have opened limitless tomorrows for your 
children. You have redeemed the beauty of the Irish countryside. You 
have redeemed the power of Irish poetry. You have redeemed the loving 
faith of Saint Patrick. This island is coming home to itself.
    In an old Irish tale, Finn MacCumhal says, ``The best music in the 
world is the music of what happens.'' What happens here today is quite 
wonderful. Never let the music die in your heart, and it will always 
play out in your lives. And America will be there every step of the way.
    Thank you, and God bless you. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. at the intersection of O'Connell 
Street and Bedford Row. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Joe 
Harrington of Limerick; City Manager Con Murray; Prime Minister Bertie 
Ahern of Ireland; Celia Larkin, who accompanied Prime Minister Ahern; 
composer/pianist Michael O'Suilleabhain; Prime Minister Tony Blair of 
the United Kingdom; author Frank McCourt; former Senator George J. 
Mitchell, independent chairman of the multiparty talks in Northern 
Ireland; and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith.