|For Immediate Release||September 4, 1998|
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for the wonderful welcome, thewaving flag -- (applause) -- the terrific shirts -- I want one of thoseshirtsbefore I leave -- (applause) -- at least shirts have not become virtual,youcan actually have one of them. (Laughter.)
I want to say to the Taoiseach how very grateful I am forhisleadership and friendship. But I must say that I was somewhat ambivalentwhenwe were up here giving our virtual signatures. Do you have any idea howmuchtime I spend every day signing my name? I'm going to feel utterly uselessifI can't do that anymore. (Laughter.) By the time you become the leader of acountry, someone else makes all the decisions -- you just sign your name.(Laughter.) You may find you can get away with virtual presidents, virtualprime ministers, virtual everything. Just stick a little card in and getthepredicable response.
I want to congratulate Baltimore Technologies on makingthispossible as well. And Ted Waitt, let me thank you for the tour of thiswonderful facility. As an American I have to do one little chauvinistthing.I asked Ted -- I saw the Gateway -- do you see the Gateway boxes over thereand the then the Gateway logo and I got a Gateway golf bag before I came inand it was black and white like this. (Applause.) So I said, where didthislogo come from? And he said, "It's spots on a cow." He said, we startedinSouth Dakota and Iowa and people said how can there be a computer companyinthe farmland of America? And now there is one in the farmland of Americathathappens to be in Ireland.
But it's a wonderful story that shows the point Iwant to make later, which is that there is no monopoly on brainpower anywhere. There have always been intelligent peopleeverywhere, in the most underinvested and poorest parts of theworld. Today on the streets of the poorest neighborhoods in themost crowded country in the world -- which is probably India, inthe cities -- there are brilliant people who need a chance.
And technology, if we handle it right, will be oneof the great liberating and equalizing forces in all of humanhistory, because it proves that unlike previous economic wavesyou could be on a small farm in Iowa or South Dakota or you couldbe in a country like Ireland, long under-invested in byoutsiders, and all of a sudden open the whole world up. And youcan prove that people you can find on any street corner canmaster the skills of tomorrow. So this is a very happy day.
I want to thank the other officials from the Irishgovernment, Minister Harney and Minister O'Rourke and others. Ithank my great Commerce Secretary, Bill Daley, for being here,and Jim Lyons, who heads my economic initiatives for Ireland, andAmbassador Jean Kennedy Smith, who has done a magnificent job forus and will soon be going home after having played a major rolein getting the peace process started, and we thank her.
I thank you all personally for the warm receptionyou gave George Mitchell, because you have no idea how much griefhe gave me for giving him this job. (Laughter and applause.)You all voted for the agreement now, and everything is basicallygoing in the right direction, but it was like pulling fingernailsfor three years -- everybody arguing over every word, everyphrase, every semicolon, you know? In the middle of that, GeorgeMitchell was not all that happy that I had asked him to undertakethis duty.
But when you stood up and you clapped for him today,for the first time since I named him, he looked at me and saidthank you. So thank you again, you made my day. (Applause.)Thank you.
I'd also like to thank your former Prime Ministerand Taoiseach, John Bruton, who's here and who also worked withus on the peace process. Thank you, John, for coming, it'sdelightful to see you. (Applause.) And I would like you to knowthat there are a dozen members of the United States Congresshere, from both parties -- showing that we have reached acrossour own divide to support peace and prosperity in Ireland. And Ithank all the members of Congress and I'd like to ask them tostand up, just so you'll see how many there are here. Thank youvery much. (Applause.)
I know that none of the Irish here will be surprisedwhen I tell you that a recent poll of American intellectualsdecided that the best English language novel of the 20th centurywas a book set in Dublin, written by an Irishman, in Trieste andZurich, and first published in New York and Paris -- a metaphorof the world in which we now live. James Joyce's "Ulysses" wasthe product of many cultures, but it remains a deeply Irish work.
Some of you will remember that near the beginning ofthe book, Joyce wrote, "History is a nightmare from which I amtrying to awake." Much of Irish history, of course, is rich andwarm and wonderful, but we all know it has its nightmarishaspects. They are the ones from which Ireland is now awakening,thanks to those who work for peace and thanks to those who bringprosperity.
Much of Ireland's new history, of course, will beshaped by the Good Friday Peace Agreement. You all, from yourresponse to Senator Mitchell, are knowledgeable of it and proudof it, and I thank you for voting for it in such overwhelmingnumbers in the Republic.
I think it's important that you know it's a stepforward not only for Irish people but for all people dividedeverywhere who are seeking new ways to think about old problems,who want to believe that they don't forever have to be at thethroats of those with whom they share a certain land, justbecause they are of a different faith or race or ethnic group ortribe. The leaders and the people of Ireland and NorthernIreland, therefore, are helping the world to awaken fromhistory's nightmares.
Today Ireland is quite an expansive place, with apositive outlook on the world. The 1990s have changed thiscountry in profound and positive ways. Not too long ago, Irelandwas a poor country by European standards, inward-looking,sometimes insular.
Today, as much as any country in Europe, Ireland isconnected in countless ways to the rest of the world, as Tedshowed me when we moved from desk to desk to desk downstairs withthe people who were talking to France and the people who weretalking to Germany and the people who were talking toScandinavia, and on and on and on.
This country has strong trade relations with Britainand the United States, with countries of the European Union andbeyond. And Ireland, as we see here at this place, is fastbecoming a technological capital of Europe. Innovativeinformation companies are literally transforming the way theIrish interact and communicate with other countries. That isclear here -- perhaps clearer here than anywhere else -- atGateway, a company speaking many languages and most of all thelanguage of the future. Gateway and other companies like Inteland Dell and Digital are strengthening Ireland's historic linksto the United States and reaching out beyond.
I think it is very interesting, and I was not awareof this before I prepared for this trip, that Dublin is literallybecoming a major telecommunications center for all of Europe.More and more Europeans do business on more and more telephones,and more and more of their calls are routed through here. Youconnect people and businesses in very combination: a Germanhousewife, a French computer company, a Czech businessman, aSwedish investor -- people all around Europe learning to dobusiness on the Internet.
At the hub of this virtual commerce is Ireland, anatural gateway for the future also of such commerce betweenEurope and the United States. In the 21st century, after yearsand years and years of being disadvantaged because of what wasmost important to the production of wealth, Ireland will have itsday in the sun because the most important thing in the 21stcentury is the capacity of people to imagine, to innovate, tocreate, to exchange ideas and information. By those standards,this is a very wealthy nation indeed.
Your growth has been phenomenal: last year, 7.7percent; prices rising at only 1.5 percent; unemployment at a20-year low. Ireland is second only to the United States inexporting software. This year the Irish government may post asurplus of $1.7 billion. The Celtic tiger is roaring and youshould be very proud of it. (Applause.)
It has been speculated, half seriously, that thereare more foreigners here than at any time since the Vikingspillaged Ireland in the 9th century. (Laughter.) I guess Iought to warn you -- you know, whenever a delegation ofCongressmen comes to Ireland they all claim to be Irish -- and ina certain way they all are -- but one of the members of thedelegation here, Congressman Hoyer, who has been a great friendof the peace process, is in fact of Viking heritage, descent.(Laughter.) Stand up, Steny. (Applause.)
Now, all the rest of us come here and pander to youand tell you we love Ireland because there is so much Irish bloodrunning in our veins. He comes here and says he loves Irelandbecause there is so much of his blood running in your veins.(Laughter and applause.)
Let me get back to what I was saying about theInternet -- because your position vis-a-vis telecommunication canbe seen through that. When I came here just three years ago --had one of the great days of my life, there was so much hopeabout the peace process then -- only 3 million people worldwidewere connected to the Internet, three years ago. Today there areover 120 million people, a 40-fold increase in three years. Inthe next decade sometime it will be over a billion. Already, ifyou travel, you can see the impact of this in Russia or in Chinaor other far-flung places around the globe.
I had an incredible experience in one of theseInternet cafes in Shanghai, where I met with young high schoolstudents in China working the Internet. Even if they didn't havecomputers at home, they could come to the cafe, buy a cup ofcoffee, rent a little time and access the Internet. This isgoing to change dramatically the way we work and live. It isgoing to democratize opportunity in the world in a way that hasnever been the case in all of human history. And if we are wiseand decent about it, we can not only generate more wealth, we canreduce future wars and conflicts.
The agreement that we signed today does someimportant things. It commits us to reduce unnecessary regulatorybarriers, to refrain from imposing customs duties, to keep taxesto a minimum, to create a stable and predictable environment fordoing business electronically. It helps us, in other words, tocreate an architecture for one of the most important areas ofbusiness activity in the century ahead.
There are already 470 companies in Ireland that areAmerican, and many of them are in the information sector. Thenumber is growing quickly. So I say to you that I think thisagreement we have signed today, and the way we have signed it,will not only be helpful in and of themselves, but will stand forwhat I hope will be the future direction of your economy andAmerica's, the future direction of our relationship, and willopen a massive amount of opportunity to ordinary people who neverwould have had it before.
A strong modern economy thrives on education,innovation, respect for the interests of workers and customersand a respect for the earth's environment. An enlightenedpopulation is our best investment in a good future. Prosperityreinforces peace as well. The Irish have long championedprosperity, peace, and human decency, and for all that I am verygrateful.
I would like to just say, because I can't leaveIreland without acknowledging this, that there are few nationsthat have contributed more than Ireland, even in times which weredifficult for this country, to the cause of peace and humanrights around the world. You have given us now Mary Robinson toserve internationally in that cause. But since peacekeepingbegan for the United Nations 40 years ago, 75 Irish soldiers havegiven their lives.
Today we work shoulder to shoulder in Bosnia and theMiddle East. But I think you should know, that as nearly as Ican determine, in the 40 years in which the world has beenworking together on peacekeeping, the only country in the worldwhich has never taken a single, solitary day off from the causeof world peace to the United Nations peacekeeping operations isIreland. And I thank you. (Applause.)
In 1914, on the verge of the First World War, whichwould change Europe and Ireland forever, William Butler Yeatswrote his famous line, "In dreams begin responsibility." Irelandhas moved from nightmares to dreams. Ireland has assumed greatresponsibility. As a result, you are moving toward permanentpeace, remarkable prosperity, unparalleled influence, and abrighter tomorrow for your children. May the nightmares staygone, the dreams stay bright, and the responsibility wear easilyon your shoulder, because the future is yours.
Thank you, and God bless you.
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