Office of the Press Secretary
2:30 P.M. (L)
MR. BERGER: As you know, the President had two meetings this morning, one with President McAleese, a very good meeting. They talked -- she was very gracious about the President's role in the revitalization of Ireland and the peace process. They talked a bit about the issues that now face the parties, with which you're familiar.
But I think there was generally a sense from the President that the people -- as President Clinton echoed here -- the people have no desire to turn back, they want to move this process forward and solutions need to be found to the problems that lie in front of us.
The President then, as you know, met with Prime Minister Ahern, the Taoiseach. They talked about issues of policing, of decommissioning, of demilitarization, all of which are at various points of discussion among the parties.
He also said it's very clear that people don't want to go back; the goal now is total normalcy.
Q "He" being?"
MR. BERGER: "He" being the Taoiseach. The President asked both the President of Ireland and the Taoiseach a number of questions, so he understood the current situation better. They talked a bit with the Taoiseach about the thriving economy here, 27 percent of the investment here is American investment. And, as you know, this is the fastest growing economy in Europe and a real economic powerhouse.
And the President pointed out again, as you heard echoed here, the relationship between prosperity and peace -- that is, when people see the fruits of sacrifice and the fruits of the process, it gains greater traction and has kind of a self-fulfilling dimension to it.
Q For those of us with European deadlines, can you say a bit about the speech tonight? Is he going to make any announcements? Is he going to talk about the real IRA?
MR. BERGER: No announcements in the speech. He will talk tonight about how far the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland have come, the extraordinary success here, about what's at stake in keeping this process moving forward, the peace process, and how much can be lost by apathy or complacency or succumbing to the extremes.
On the real IRA, that is not an issue he will address tonight; I know the question has come up today. This is a matter we have -- "this" being whether to designate the real IRA as a terrorist organization under our law is a matter that we have had under active review within the United States government. We have a legal procedure that we need to go through. We've been consulting with the government of Ireland, with the British government and we will continue to pursue our procedure.
We have, obviously, no tolerance for individuals or groups that seek to achieve any objective through violent means. I would not expect the President to say anything about that while he's here.
Q Should it be -- should the organization be certified, Sandy?
MR. BERGER: Well, there's a legal standard and a legal process that has to be followed, because -- under our statutes that does give law enforcement authority, certain additional powers with respect to investigation, et cetera. So there is a process, there are legal tests that have to be met. That process is under active consideration.
Q You don't expect that process to be completed during this visit?
MR. BERGER: No. No, it will not be completed during this visit.
Q Is the President having any pull-asides? There are a whole bunch of people involved in the process around him today, is he having any --
MR. BERGER: Well, I expect tomorrow -- I don't know what went on in there -- (laughter) -- it was obviously quite a celebratory mob scene. And I saw most of the principal players or talked to them.
But, clearly, tomorrow, at Stormont, he will meet with David Trimble, Seamus Mallon. He'll meet with Gerry Adams and John Hume and other leaders --
MR. BERGER: -- I doubt that, seriously -- who are engaged in the process and talk with them. Let me talk about my expectations here for the next few days, in terms of the cluster of issues that now confront the parties and the governments.
Number one, I think the fact of the President's trip has intensified the pace of discussions among the parties and among the governments -- and between the governments, and I think that's good.
Number two, I think that will obviously continue tomorrow. I don't have any expectation that there will be resolutions tomorrow or breakthroughs tomorrow. I hope that, and I think the President hopes that his presence here, his private conversations and his public dialogue with the people here will remind them what's at stake, what they've done through the force of their energy and vision, what they can lose -- and, by virtue of that, will create an environment in which the resolution of these problems in the coming days and weeks will be easier.
Q Is there any specific about how the talks are being hastened by this visit?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think just in the last several days, in anticipation of the President's trip there have been conversations and discussions among the governments, among the parties. I know the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister were in Nice together -- this came up -- this was a subject of discussion there. There have been discussions between the governments and the parties.
So the pace of activity has intensified, the fact that we're here. Tomorrow we'll continue that process. And I think the most important contribution the President can make is to remind the parties and remind the people of Ireland what they know. But sometimes it takes someone to say that they've come too far to go back, no problem is insurmountable, there needs to be compromise, there needs to be creativity. And I hope we leave having created an environment which will be conducive to solving these problems.
Q Are you offering any ideas, Sandy, on how to overcome some of these problems -- the disarmament, the police reform? Mitchell is going to be around tomorrow.
MR. BERGER: It's ultimately for the parties to come to their own resolution of what can be done in terms of the various issues. I think the President will try to draw them out and try to see what they're prepared to do. But we can't, obviously, impose our ideas on them.
Q Can you share them?
MR. BERGER: Well, there will be, I'm sure, a healthy discussion that will take place. But even in the context of the Good Friday process back in '98, obviously, George Mitchell was here in the middle of this, and the President was in the middle of it on the phone -- but, very often, the most important things that we did was to get the parties to reach a little farther to meet the other side.
Q Are there any particular issues that are further along than others?
MR. BERGER: I wouldn't want to assess that. There is a cluster of issues that I think are well known, relating to normalization, demilitarization, relating to policing, relating to decommissioning --
Q Which is the hardest one?
MR. BERGER: Well, again, it depends on for whom. Some are harder for some and some are harder for others.
Q You don't see any breakthroughs tomorrow. Do you see a breakthrough before January 20th?
MR. BERGER: I don't know whether January 20th, meaning the President's last day is, itself, a particular deadline. I mean, there's a dynamic here that is at work. There are certain things that are going to happen here that will impose their own dynamic. I think there is a sense of urgency that the parties have, that they've got to address these issues.
But let me go back and put this into context that, interestingly enough, the President and the Taoiseach both -- the Irish President and the Taoiseach both were very careful to state, which is that this process is moving forward. This process is not in a crisis; there are problems, serious issues that have to be resolved, but they're determined to see this through.
You know, I think in any peace process sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is another tunnel -- I mean, there's a never-ending series of issues that have to be resolved until, at some point, one forgets that there ever was a peace process in the first place.
Q Sorry to revert to this, but can the President really go to the stronghold of the real IRA, say, and not even obliquely address the men of violence?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think he'll address violence, yes.
Q Can you say any more about the speech that he's going to be making in London, give us a little better idea of what the message might be?
MR. BERGER: There will be three speeches the President will give. One is in Dundalk, tonight; then in Belfast, tomorrow, in which he will be speaking directly to the people of Northern Ireland -- obviously, largely about how far they've come and how important what they've achieved is.
The speech in Warwick is an interesting speech. It is basically the President addressing something he cares very deeply about, and that is the new development agenda for this generation. That is, we are in a period of globalization nowhere more evident than here in Ireland. People have benefitted enormously from this tremendous explosion of technology and information and prosperity. And, yet, there's a globalization gap in the world and in many ways the world is more divided between rich and poor than ever before.
And he's going to speak about the obligation of both the developed countries and the developing countries to, once and for all, undertake to close that gap.
Q And how does this differentiate between the one in Nebraska?
MR. BERGER: Well, Nebraska was a broad foreign policy speech in which he talked about really the major strategic objectives of his foreign policy: rebuilding our alliances, reintegrating our former adversaries into the international community, trying to bring peace to troubled areas of the world, dealing with a series of new security threats -- like terrorism, et cetera -- and trying to open the global economy. That was a speech that set out, I would say, his foreign policy, what he described as a foreign policy for the global age.
The speech in Warwick takes a slice of that, which is the question of -- the issue of the yawning gap between rich nations and poor nations. We've done -- as you've watched, as you've seen over the last two years, we spent more and more energy and resources on issues like AIDS in Africa, on third world debt, on education for children, on the digital divide. These are the new development issues.
In the '80s, in the '70s, the development issue was, how much aid are the rich countries going to give to the poor countries. The issues now are, how do we help the developing countries and how do they help themselves deal with these impediments to growth. So that's basically what Warwick is about.
Q How much did the President's choice of Dundalk have to do with his desire to send a message to the IRA?
MR. BERGER: No, I don't think that's -- that was not the purpose for the selection of Dundalk. Dundalk is a border community. It is a community that suffered seriously during The Troubles. It was sharply divided, which saw a great deal of violence; and which has, over the past few years, begun to come together, begun to rebuild, begun to see revitalization, and I think represents a community that has seen both the horror of violence and the vision of peace. And I think that, symbolically, is an important place to be.
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