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Special Event

Bertie Ahern Gives Bush Shamrocks

Aired March 16, 2001 - 10:32 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing by for a live event now. It's about to take place at the White House. It's a ceremony involving President Bush and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

The event on this eve of St. Patrick's Day will involve Mr. Ahern giving a bowl of shamrocks to Mr. Bush. It is an offer of peace. And it's supposed to aid in the peace process.

Other newsworthy items about this meeting to take place. Mr. Bush made some comments on the Irish peace process yesterday. And he said that he will continue the U.S. support for the Northern Ireland peace process. A day ahead of these talks with Mr. Ahern.

But it's going to be a little different than how Mr. Clinton handled it during his administration. Mr. Bush has gone ahead and named an appoint person for the Northern Irish peace process. That'll be Richard Haass. He is the director of Policy Planning at the State Department.

But unlike how it was under the Clinton administration, this will not be a full-time pursuit for Mr. Haass. You might remember that President Clinton had his Irish peace envoy, George Mitchell, who spent months in Ireland, helping to negotiate the peace deal.

We are talking about the Good Friday agreement. That was the U.S.-brokered deal that they came up with back in 1998. That was among Britain, Ireland and Northern Irish parties. It's aimed to end decades of strife in this British province of Northern Ireland.

But the implementation of the accord has been stalled behind schedule. There are hardline Republican guerrillas who have renewed threats of violence.

So Mr. Bush coming out yesterday and saying that the U.S. will go ahead and continue to support these peace efforts. But he does not intend to be as involved as Mr. Clinton was.

And here is the Irish prime minister and Mr. Bush and Mrs. Bush in festive green. Let's go ahead and listen in.

BERTIE AHERN, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. President and First Lady, on behalf of the government and the people of Ireland, I wish you all, and all the distinguished guests that are here, a very happy St. Patrick's Day. It is a particular pleasure to be here with you on your first St. Patrick's Day as president of the United States.

Today is one of celebration. In Ireland and throughout the world, Irish people of all traditions and religions come together on St. Patrick's Day to honor their native land and their shared heritage. We are joined by many millions of Irish descent, especially here in the United States, and we are happy to welcome those who just want the privilege of being Irish for the day.


Today we also remember St. Patrick himself. We remember that he first came to Ireland as an exile in a strange land. We think of those around the world who today find themselves in the same predicament. And we think of all those who are leaving our shores, found a new home here in America. In building a better future for themselves and for their children, they also helped to build America itself.

Mr. President, the deep bonds between our two nations go beyond the ties of family and heritage. We share a commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights. As a current member of the Security Council of the United Nations, we are working intensively with you to promote these values across the world.

Our economic and commercial links have never been stronger. The United States is poised to become, for the first time ever, Ireland's largest trading partner. American investors find in Ireland a rewarding economic environment, shaped by our commitment to education and to enterprise.

For many years now, Americans of both parties in the administration and Congress and in the states and cities across this great country have supported efforts to achieve a lasting and comprehensive political settlement in Ireland.

As the British and Irish governments and the political parties now work together to complete the implementation of Good Friday Agreement, it is good to be able to count on true friends.

I thank you, President, for your warm words of encouragement, and for your continued and strong commitment to assisting us in our vital task, and we deeply appreciate the words that you said yesterday on Capitol Hill.

Mr. President, though it's a simple plant, the Shamrock is richly symbolic. It was used by St. Patrick to explain how three persons might exist in one God. More recently it has come to illustrate the concept of unity and diversity, which sums both the American experience and our enduring hopes for peace and reconciliation in Ireland. And I present it to you today as a symbol of the unique ties which draw our two nations together.

Thank you, Mr. President.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Taoiseach, thank you very much, sir. We're so honored that you're here.

Laura and I welcome you and welcome our guests. Thank you all for coming.

We accept this crystal of shamrocks, not just as a symbol of Ireland, but as a symbol of a strong friendship between our nations, our shared values and shared history and shared hopes.

Thank you for continuing this St. Patrick's Day tradition, and we really appreciate this wonderful gift.

But St. Patrick's Day is also a time for everyone to reflect on Ireland's many gifts to the world. We are thankful, first, for all that Ireland and the prime minister have done to further the cause of peace in Northern Ireland.

There is an Irish expression: The work praises the man. The peace that holds today in Northern Ireland is no small measure or tribute to the prime minister and his courageous leadership.

And I assured him, and will continue to do so, that the United States stands ready to help in any way that the governments involved need.

The world is also thankful for the thousands of peacekeepers Ireland sends to other troubled corners of the globe, everywhere from Kosovo to East Timor. And we're thankful for the generous development aid Ireland sends to the world's poorest nations.

But Ireland's most precious gift to the world has been the Irish. No nation has benefited more from Irish talent and industry than the United States. You've given us presidents, nine signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In fact, so many Irish served as volunteers in the Continental Army, a lord in parliament lamented, "We have lost America through the Irish."


Today, over 44 million Irish-Americans reinforce the natural bonds of friendship between our nations. The United States is proud of our strong ties of trade and investment, and proud that they have contributed to the strong economy that you have led. We look forward to working even more closely with Ireland, particularly now that it serves on the UN Security Council.

According to legend, St. Patrick returned to Ireland after hearing the Irish people beckon him in a dream to "come and walk among us once more." Well, today it is a world that beckons the Irish to continuing walking among us and sharing with us the rich culture, the large hearts and good works.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, America is proud to call Ireland a friend, not just on St. Patrick's Day, but on every day.


KAGAN: And there you have it, the official ceremony, the presentation of shamrocks from the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, to the president of the United States, George Bush.



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