THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 12, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND PRIME MINISTER BERTIE AHERN AT PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
Office of the Taoiseach
12:15 P.M. (L)
Q Mr. President, why do you keep coming back to Ireland?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I got invited. And, you know, I've had a
special interest in my tenure here and the peace process, and the Taoiseach
and Prime Minister Blair have worked hard, as the parties in Northern
Ireland have, and there's still a little work to be done. So I thought
maybe if I came back, I could help a little, and I hope I can.
Q What's your message to the politicians, to the people of Northern
Ireland and, indeed, to the paramilitaries?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I think the people, by and large, have
embraced the peace, and are in some ways leading the process. And I don't
think they want to go back. I think the leadership of the Irish
government, the Taoiseach particularly, and the support of the British
government have helped. I think the incredible success of the Irish
economy has helped.
I think people can see the benefits of peace. So my message is, to
those parties which aren't involved in the process, they ought to join and
not wreck it; there's too much to be gained and too much has already been
gained. And to those who are part of the process and have disagreements, I
hope they'll try to work them out.
Q Mr. President, do you care to comment on the suggestion that
after you leave the White House, you might be prepared to become a special
peace envoy to Ireland?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) Well, I think the new president, whoever
it may be, will want to have a new team in place, and I will support that.
I want to support whatever decisions the new administration makes on
foreign policy. And if I can be a resource, I will. If I can ever help
the Irish, of course I will.
But I think in terms of my government's representation, that will be
entirely up to the new president, and I will support whatever decisions are
made on that.
Q Taoiseach, do you expect the President's visit, and especially
the visit to Belfast tomorrow, to move the process forward? At the moment,
it's caught up in the old difficulties over demilitarization -- and all the
rest of it. Do you expect the President --
PRIME MINISTER AHERN: Well, first, I say it's a great honor for us in
the Irish government and I think everybody in Ireland, that the President
is here. He is more and more welcome than I think even his other two
visits. We're so pleased, and I think everybody in this country is
pleased, and all of you in the media know that from the reaction over the
last number of weeks since it was confirmed.
Of course I think the President can help. To expect all of the
problems to be resolved in one go, of course is impractical. But the very
fact the President's coming has helped in the last few weeks for people to
focus on still what are difficulties and to try to narrow down those
difficulties and to look at the possibilities -- and they are only
possibilities -- of what we can do.
I know that the talks we'll have now, the talks during the course of
the day and tomorrow and the visit to Dundalk tonight will allow people to
see all that we have achieved. And I think now, what we're doing is, we're
dealing with some of the side issues that are still residual issues out of
the Good Friday Agreement and we still have to deal with those. And we are
dealing with them, and this visit will help that.
Q Taoiseach, will you miss Bill Clinton when he steps down?
PRIME MINISTER AHERN: I will, yes. No doubt about that.
Q Mr. President, when you were here, you called on the parties to
take a risk for peace. Are we now at a situation where you will call on
the parties again to take a further risk?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we have to keep going. I don't think
there's -- I don't think reversal is an option. And as I said, the people
are not there. It's obvious to me, from all the human contact, just the
increasing cross-border contacts, that the people want this thing to go on.
And I think the leaders just have to find a way through the last three or
four difficult issues, and I think it can be done.
I'll do what I can to be helpful.
Q You really care about this, don't you?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do. I always have. You know -- let me just
say, the Americans -- you know, the American people, about 40 million of us
have some Irish blood. And we also have had a unique relationship with
Great Britain. It's been -- I mean, they burned the White House in 1814,
but since then it's been pretty good. (Laughter.) You know, we fought two
World Wars together, we stayed through the Cold War together, and the way
it used to be was a source of immense pain to a lot of Americans.
Many of the American people who have wanted to be involved, had no
constructive way to do that. And I hope and believe we've changed that
over the last eight years. So, to me, it's just a question of you've just
got to keep going and keep bringing more and more and more people in.
Because the Irish have proved that you can do this.
I said something before when I was here, I'll say again -- I don't
think you can possibly imagine the impact of a success in the Irish peace
process on trouble spots throughout the world. That's another thing that's
been very important to me as the President of the United States, because I
have to be involved in Latin America and Asia and Africa, the Balkans.
And so I care a lot about this. But I also -- I want you to know how
much people around the world look to your and draw courage from what you do
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:20 P.M. (L)