President Bill Clinton Discusses Northern Ireland Peace Pact
April 10, 1998
CLINTON: Good afternoon. After a 30-year winter of
sectarian violence, Northern Ireland today has the (AUDIO GAP)
of a springtime of peace.
The agreement that has emerged from the Northern Ireland
peace talks opens the way for the people there to build a
society based on enduring peace, justice and equality. The
vision and commitment of the participants in the talks has made
real the prayers for peace on both sides of the Atlantic and
both sides of the peace line.
All friends of Ireland and Northern Ireland know the task of
making the peace endure will be difficult. The path of peace is
never easy. But the parties have made brave decisions. They
have chosen hope over hate; The promise of the future over the
poison of the past. And in so doing, already they have written a
new chapter in the rich history of their island, a chapter of
resolute courage that inspires us all.
In the days to come there may be those who will try to
undermine this great achievement, not only with words but
perhaps also with violence.
All the parties and all the rest of us must stand
shoulder to shoulder to defy any such appeal. On this Good
Friday, we give thanks for the work of Prime Minister Ahern and
Prime Minister Blair -- two truly remarkable leaders who did a
unbelievable job in these talks. We give thanks for the work of
Senator George Mitchell, who was brilliant and unbelievably
patient and long-suffering.
We give thanks especially to the leaders of the parties, for
they had to make the courageous decisions. We also thank Prime
Minister Blair and Prime Minister Ahern's predecessors for
starting and nurturing the process of peace. Together all these
people have created the best chance for peace in a generation.
In May, the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland will have
the chance to seize the gift they have been given. At this
Easter season, British and Irish leaders have followed the
admonition of Luke to give light to them who sit in darkness and
in the shadow of death and to guide their feet into the way of
For that, peace-loving people the world over can be very
QUESTION: Mr. President, what promises or assurances did the
United States make to help move this process along?
CLINTON: Well, from the very beginning, all I have tried to
do is to help create the conditions in which peace could
develop, and then to do whatever I was asked to do or whatever
seemed helpful to encourage and support the parties in the
search for peace. And that's all I did last night.
QUESTION: Did you offer any assistance in terms of financial
QUESTION: And what (OFF-MIKE) where did you really weigh in
in all those phone calls?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, the answer to your first
question is no. Now, we have as all of you know, an
international fund for Ireland which I have strongly supported.
And I do believe that there will be very significant economic
benefits flowing to the people of Ireland, both Protestant and
Catholic in Northern Ireland and the Republic if this peace
But there was no specific financial assurance sought nor was
In terms of the give and take -- you know, I made a lot of
phone calls last night and up until this morning, actually until
right before the last session. But I think the specifics are
not all that important. I did what I was asked to do. Again, I
was largely guided by the work of Prime Minister Blair and Prime
Minister Ahern. I had a very long talk in the middle of the
night -- for me, last night -- with Senator Mitchell about his
work there. And I'm looking forward to seeing him early next
I just did what I thought would help and I tried to do what I
was asked to do.
QUESTION: Will you be going to Belfast now that they've
reached a deal?
CLINTON: Well, I really haven't had much discussion about
it. No decision's been made. This is not even a day to think
about that. This is a day to celebrate the achievement of the
people in the peace talks.
QUESTION: President Clinton, do you feel somewhat vindicated
for the policies, including giving Gerry Adams a visa here, that
have come under scrutiny, the kinds of -- some derision from
other (OFF-MIKE) wrong for being too provocative?
CLINTON: Well, when I did it, I thought it would help to
create a climate in which peace might emerge. And I believe it
was a positive thing to do. I believed it then; I believe it
But make no mistake about it -- whenever peace is made by
people anywhere, the credit belongs to the parties whose own
lives and livelihoods and children and future are on the line.
And that's the way I feel today.
If anything that I or the United States was able to do was
helpful -- especially because of our historic ties to Great
Britain and because of the enormous number of Irish Americans we
have and the feeling we have for the Irish and their troubles --
then, I'm very grateful.
But the credit for this belongs to the people who made the
QUESTION: Mr. President...
QUESTION: What role do you plan to play from now on?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) peace agreement, sir. How fragile is
it? And will it be able to withstand the (OFF-MIKE) and the
CLINTON: Well, I think the parties will honor it. They
fought too hard over the details down to the 11th hour and them
some. They even went past Senator Mitchell's deadline, and well
into this Good Friday, as given Irish history -- maybe it's
appropriate that this was done on this day.
So they fought too hard over the details to violate them.
I expect the parties to honor the agreement. And
then it's really up to the people, the people of Northern
Ireland and the people of the Republic of Ireland. They're
going to have a vote on it in May, in late May, and their
judgment will prevail.
Will there be those who are disgruntled who may seek to
violate the cease-fire, who are not part of the parties that
have signed off on this agreement? There may well be.
But if we all stand shoulder-to-shoulder and everyone
understands that the integrity of the leaders and the parties
that are part of this process is still unshakable and rock
solid, I think we'll be all right. And we just need to let the
Irish people have their say, and I think they will have their
QUESTION: Sir, what role do you expect to play from now on
in this process in terms of trying to maintain (OFF-MIKE)?
CLINTON: Well, I don't know. You know, the -- if I can be
helpful I will. That's been my position all along, that's what
I tell everybody that talks to me about it. But no decision has
been made about that and, you know, the United States believes
in this process passionately. I personally am deeply committed
to it. And if they -- if the leaders think there's something I
can do to be helpful, well, of course I'll try. But there's
been no discussion about it and no decision made.
QUESTION: Mr. President, could there have been an agreement
today without your efforts last night?
CLINTON: Oh, I certainly am -- I wouldn't say there couldn't
have been. I was -- all I did -- I was asked to help, I did my
best to help. But let me say again, there were people that I
was talking to up until 8, 9:00, even later this morning, who
haven't been to bed in 48 hours.
They sat and talked and worked and fought and argued and got
back together. And for some of them, they put their political
lives on the line.
Others may have put even more on the line, as you
well know. And they and the prime ministers and Senator
Mitchell, who somehow kept it all together, they deserve the
credit. I just tried to do what I was asked to do. If I played
a positive role, I'm grateful to have had the chance to do so.
QUESTION: Happy Easter. Are you going to Camp David?
CLINTON: I am. We're going up probably in the early
evening. And I hope all of you have a great holiday. Bless you.
QUESTION: What are you going to do about the Middle East?
CLINTON: Well, we got Bosnia and Haiti and now I hope
Ireland. And I'll just keep working on it. The Irish thing
ought to give you hope for the Middle East, because the lesson
is, just don't ever stop.
Just, you know, just -- And in the end, if the will for peace
is stronger than the impulse to avoid it and the impulse to
avoid the tough decisions and the sacrifices that are made, that
have to be made, then the will for peace can prevail. That's
the lesson here.
So I would hope that those who care desperately about the
Middle East and want the peace process there to prevail will
take great heart here, because believe you me, I know a lot
about this. There were a lot of tough decisions which had to be
made. Nobody could get everything they wanted, and risks had to
be taken. And they were taken. And they now will be taken.
And it seems to me that the friends of peace in the Middle
East should take great heart from this and perhaps will even
find some examples that could be followed.
QUESTION: You said that peace in Ireland is an article of
faith. Is there going to be any kind of Clinton celebration
CLINTON: I'm celebrating right now. (OFF-MIKE)