Office of the Press Secretary
(Belfast, Northern Ireland)
|For Immediate Release||December 13, 2000|
Belfast, Northern Ireland
4:06 P.M. (L)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, now, ladies and gentlemen, it's a really great pleasure to be with you here this afternoon. I'd like to say a very special word of welcome to the President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton. (Applause.) And, yes, to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well. (Applause.) Got kind of a good ring to it. Welcome to them, and welcome to everyone here today.
And, Bill, if I can say to you a few personal words right at the outset. In your time as President, we've taken many steps down the road to peace. And if we turn this progress into a lasting peace and stability, then when its history is written, your name will be written large within it. (Applause.) Our countries have long had a unique relationship, and that will always be there. But today I want to say thank you not just to the United States, but to you, personally, for your commitment, your intelligence, your encouragement -- that Clinton magic that has taken us forward at key moments. You may be serving the end of your term in office, but I know, and we know, that your commitment to peace will never end. (Applause.)
It was in 1995 that you first came to Northern Ireland as President. And there have been big changes since then -- big changes that sometimes far too often we take for granted: unemployment down by 40 percent; the fastest growing economy in the whole of the UK here in Northern Ireland; people returning -- not leaving -- exports doubling; inward investment coming; tourism, now 1.6 million people a year; a construction industry of dramatic revival; 10 million pounds per month injected into the Laganside development. Whole industrial areas being transformed here, this very Odyssey Center -- a 91.5 million pound investment.
I tell you, without our process of peace, these benefits would never have come to the people in Northern Ireland. And let us not forget that progress when we talk of the difficulties. (Applause.)
And a peace process is, indeed, what it says -- a process. It's not an event. It was never going to be the case that suddenly one day in April 1998, there were The Troubles, and the next day there was peace. It is a process that is painstaking, difficult, full of obstacles. And, yes, there will be those extremists who will still hanker after violence and the old ways. Yes, there will still be people who are sectarian in their attitudes. But I say the best answer to those people is not when they engage in violence to let them destroy the process of peace, but when they engage in violence, let us say to them: You will not stop the expressed will of the people being done; this process will carry on moving forward. (Applause.)
And that Good Friday agreement is still the way forward, the only way forward. Because the principles at the heart of it, whatever the difficulties in implementing them, the principles at the heart of it are the right principles. The principle of consent; the principle of devolution and power-sharing; the principles of justice and equality and recognition of different identities; the principle that whatever our differences, whatever the problems within communities, those differences should only be resolved -- only ever be resolved by peaceful and democratic and nonviolent means. (Applause.)
And, yes, in implementing those principles, the difficulties remain -- on policing; on how we put the weapons beyond use and take the gun out of politics; on how we normalize our security, all these difficulties remain. But the principles are agreed and, therefore, what we need now is the will -- not just the political will, but the will in a community, each part of the community to implement the agreement we have made.
And there's one other big change, one other big change you will notice here, and that is the relations between the British and the Irish governments today. And I would like to pay a special word of tribute to someone who isn't with us this afternoon, Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach, who's done so much to move this process forward. (Applause.)
We -- we -- are making peace with our history in these islands. And in doing so, I believe we are representing that strand of humanity that seeks progress in every age.
There is an eternal debate between those who believe that events shape people and that we are powerless in the grip of historical forces, and those who believe, even if only at certain times and certain moments, that people can shape events and in doing so, make our own history. There are the doers and there are the critics; there are the strivers and there are the cynics. There are the ones who get their hands dirty trying, and the ones whose hands are clean because they never tried. And I tell you, those two men on the platform alongside the President, and countless others here today, they are the ones who are striving against all the odds to bring peace to Northern Ireland. And each one of them will be told they're selling out, and all of them will be told that they are betraying what they believe in. And all of them have the courage to know that the real betrayal would be to let this peace process go down. (Applause.)
They've taken the hard way. They pay a price for it. But I do believe that they will be the men future generations salute as people who had the vision to say that we will leave behind the bitterness and the hatred and the prejudice, and build a new beginning. You know, we know each other all pretty well now. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's difficult, and sometimes we doubt.
But in the end, it's one thing that unites David and Seamus, unites all the people who work together in that Executive that no one could even have dreamt of a few years ago could happen, with Unionists and Nationalists and Republicans sitting down together and trying to work out the way forward. There's one thing that all of us have in common: However much sometimes we disagree, and however much sometimes it's difficult, we all know there is no other way forward. There is no alternative. There is no other choice that somehow offers a painless way of grasping the potential of the future.
This is our chance in Northern Ireland. For those of us who grew up with The Troubles an ever-present reality, for those of you, many of you, whose individual lives will have been scarred by those Troubles, you know and I know, we all know, this is our hope for peace.
So I want to tell you this: We will never give up the search for peace. Whatever the obstacles, we will overcome them. Whatever the difficulties, we will remove them. Whatever the barriers in the way, we will surmount them. Because, in the end, if we exist in politics for any reason, it is at these crucial moments of history to make a difference. And now we have.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's my very, very great pleasure to introduce to you one of the men that has made a difference over these past few years in Northern Ireland: the Deputy First Minister, a good friend, a good colleague and a good man, Seamus Mallon. (Applause.)
DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER MALLON: Mr. President, Prime Minister, Senator-elect Clinton, Chelsea, Cherie, guests. It is my pleasure and honor to welcome you and your colleagues back to Northern Ireland. We gather here in the Odyssey Arena -- named after Homer's epic voyage of hope, of endurance, a tale that moves from barbarity and war to the serenity of a lasting peace. So there are resonances here, for our own rocky, uncertain journey of hope; for our own path towards peace.
Eight years ago, Mr. President, you pledged to join us on that journey. It was a remarkable pledge. There was no strategic interest at stake for your country. There was no domestic political imperative. Against the tide of conventional wisdom, you made your deeply personal act of courage and belief. Time and time again, you were there when the cause of peace needed you, leading the quest for reconciliation.
When some looked forward for a way out, you looked for a way through. With precise neutrality, you taught us to respect each other, to learn, in John Hewitt's words, that "you must give freedom if you would be free, for only friendship matters in the end."
With your help you helped us make our settlement, our ultimate act of friendship. It is called the Good Friday agreement. The people of Northern Ireland, of Southern Ireland, endorsed that settlement. And their message remains clear today. You saw it in Dublin, Mr. President; you heard it in Dundalk; and you can almost touch it here in Belfast. Let us spell it out: It is that peace will triumph. (Applause.)
But the beacon which you lit will not go out, that the will of the people, the Good Friday agreement, must and shall endure. Mr. President, when you came to Armagh two years ago, you defined your own unshakable belief in our future and in peace in a way that transcended ideologies, borders, countries, even continents.
As the sun then set, framed between the twin spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral, you said how Northern Ireland could be proof throughout the world that peace was not an idle dream. You pledged that if we chose peace, America would walk with us. You asked us to believe in our better selves, and you told us if we did, our real peace would resonate right throughout the world. That message is as challenging and inspiring today as it was then in Armagh.
Today, a different skyline greets you here in East Belfast; between the mountains and the gantries, as Louis McNiece described it -- a skyline of cranes, new buildings, new investment, much of it from the United States -- the fruits of new-found confidence in our common future.
Since your last visit, profound and irrevocable change has occurred. Out of a divided past we have moved to a new shared political partnership. We have been joined and helped by friends in Dublin -- the Taoiseach, the Minister of Foreign Affairs -- by the Prime Minister and his colleagues, the Secretary of State; by those in that government and the Irish government who, like the President, led when it was difficult to lead.
To Bertie Ahern, to Tony Blair, to Emanuel Prodi in Europe, we say a thank you. (Applause.)
Mr. President, the institutions of the agreement have become a reality, working to improve the lives of people and allowing trust to grow. When you met the new Executive this morning, we discussed our plans and ambitions: our first budget, our program for government, the difference the new institutions can make. There, you saw the face of a new and better future.
But we are not there yet, and we cannot allow this potential to be put at risk. Kernels of violence and the threat of violence persist. Just last week, coffins of two young men killed by terrorists, made their sad journey through the streets of Belfast and Dungiven, joining the over 3,000 lives lost that stretch back to the beginning of The Troubles. That is a chapter of our history which we must close, definitively, once and for all, now. (Applause.)
We cannot allow controversies and disputes to sap the goodwill and the trust which is building. We cannot draw recklessly from the well of hope, which springs from the Good Friday agreement. Instead, we must continue to build our new shining city on the hill. We must not limp along in uncertainty. We should not go on like this. It is time to stop and think; to take stock; to measure our actions and our inactions against the imperatives of peace and the hopes of you, our people.
We would all do well to recall the words of the Israeli leader, Abba Eban, when he said, "men and nations behave wisely once other alternatives have been exhausted." I think we should, all together, governments and parties alike, declare with one voice that all other alternatives have been truly exhausted -- and proceed. (Applause.) And proceed together towards the new and better future, which is there almost within touching distance.
Mr. President, you know that you are very special to us. One reason for that is your ability to generate real hope. Hope is more than just the name of your birthplace. Hope does not have to be measured out with coffee spoons; it is an infinite resource that we all share.
You challenged us to believe in ourselves, and dare to hope, to stare violence in the face and say, no. You inspire us to believe that lasting peace is obtainable and attainable, and that we will reach our goal.
Mr. President, with your help, we can, like Odysseus, complete our journey. We can live the dream that you've painted in Armagh, and that you painted again last night in Dundalk -- the dream of being able to stand with you in troubled parts of the world and say: Yes, yes, it can be done; look at Northern Ireland. They showed it was possible. They overcame hatred and violence. Their peace became real. Their new day is dawning. (Applause.)
Thank you, Mr. President, thank you, Prime Minister, thank you, Taoiseach, for your help and friendship when it was needed most.
May I now introduce my partner and friend, the First Minister, David Trimble. (Applause.)
FIRST MINISTER TRIMBLE: Mr. President, First Lady, Prime Minister, distinguished guests. Mr. President, your reception here today shows how deeply we all appreciate your continued interest and concern.
Since your last visit, we have made much progress. At Stormont, we have prepared our program for government, and for the first time -- for the first time in our history -- public policy is being set down by Ulster men and Ulster women from right across the religious divide. (Applause.) All the major parties in Northern Ireland contributed to the making of that program -- ourselves in the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP, Democratic Unionists, as well, and Sinn Fein, all of them for the first time working together and defining policy.
In the Executive and in the Assembly, we can see that working together is fostering a sense of common purpose. From dealing with job creation to improving standards of health care, from dealing with the problems of agriculture to improving the research capability of our universities, for the first time, we are making Northern Ireland work in a shared, consensual way.
Mr. President, one of your predecessors rightly said, "This land of ours cannot be a good place for any of us to live in unless it is a good place for all of us to live in." (Applause.) That is our goal -- a Northern Ireland at ease with itself, where everyone can feel at home.
Now, sadly, sadly, there are still segments of society that are still not fully participating in building that shared home. And I hope that they will gain a sufficient confidence in themselves to accept the democratic verdict and to join us in giving collective leadership to all in our society.
On your last visit, Mr. President, I said that Northern Ireland was back in business, and so it is. U.S. trade and investment is playing a crucial role in underpinning progress. But the ties between our two countries are more than just economic. We share the same ideals of peace, freedom and democracy. And we also have a shared experience in the defense of democracy. We, here, in this city, are proud that in the second world war, the first G.I. to set foot in Europe did so here, and that tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen were stationed here.
Then, fascism was the antithesis of democracy; so is terrorism today. It violates the very values that led the United States and the United Kingdom to fight side by side in the 1940s and remained allied since. Then, many wondered if those dark days would ever end.
In our own time, many wondered if The Troubles would end. But I believe that we are coming through, that we are making Northern Ireland anew. And this would not have been possible, none of this would have been possible without the strong communities that we have here, founded as they are on Christian values. And also, none of it would have been possible without the service and the sacrifice of many people in the security forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. (Applause.)
History dealt Northern Ireland a difficult hand of cards. We inherited a conflict. Nonetheless, nearly three years ago, the people of Northern Ireland voted for a fair, but complex settlement. Mr. President, you encapsulated it in these words: "They agreed to the principle of consent. Majority rule, minority rights, shared decision-making and ties to their neighbors." We are honored that you have recommended these principles to other divided societies.
For us, of course, making the agreement work has been tough. Just because that agreement accurately reflects the complex interests that exist within our society, there will, inevitably, be the moments of stress and disagreement. But the agreement protects everybody's interests. And I'm confident that support for that agreement remains strong.
Mr. President, we recall your visit to the bereaved of Omagh, which was much appreciated. And we all recall the anguish of those families. And we know that we must ensure that that misery is never repeated. As you said in Dundalk last night, we, each of us, have to play our own part in making sure that there are no more Omaghs. (Applause.)
There cannot be a moral vacuum at the heart of the peace process. There must be real peace. Our uniquely inclusive arrangements contain no ambiguity on these principles. Justification lies in the transition from a violent past to a peaceful, democratic future.
And that is why I stand firm on the need for decommissioning. (Applause.) That is why, on the waterfront in 1998, on the occasion of your last visit, Mr. President, I said, "to those who are crossing the bridge from terrorism to democracy, every move you make towards peace, I welcome; every pledge you make to peace, I will hold you to." And today we continue to watch, to wait, and to hold on to those promises.
But I do not intend -- I do not intend -- to let the ship of peace sink on the rocks of old habits and hard grudges. (Applause.) We are learning -- we are learning to define ourselves by what we are for, and not just by what we are against. And I am working -- we are all working -- for a united society here in Northern Ireland. And again and again we have to repeat to those who use violence, that you are the past, your day is over.
Mr. President, those words of yours in 1995 marked for many people here a turning point. And since then, there have been ups and downs. But sometimes I think we should step back and just look to see how much has been achieved. There is still much to be done. But we have here a uniquely talented, enthusiastic people. We've got a government committed to enterprise. We have skills and qualities second to none. And above all, we know that we here in Northern Ireland now hold our own future in our own hands. We know that it can be a great future, and we are determined to make the best of it. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, Prime Minister, may I introduce, not, I'm sure, for the last time, an old friend, the President of the United States William Jefferson Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Let me, first of all, thank Prime Minister Blair, First Minister Trimble, Deputy First Minister Mallon, for their strong leadership and their kind and generous remarks today.
I am delighted to be with them, Cherie, Mrs. Trimble, my longtime friend, John Hume; Senator George Mitchell who is here; the members of the Parliament in Northern Ireland; the members of the United States Congress and the American delegation over here to my right. I thank Chris Gibson of the Civic Forum and many others who helped to make this day possible. Hillary, Chelsea and I are delighted to be back in Northern Ireland, and here. (Applause.)
I also can't help noting that this magnificent new arena is new since I was last here in '98 -- a new team, a new sport, a new facility, a new Northern Ireland. I want to thank the Belfast Giants for letting us use the arena tonight. I understand they don't treat their opponents as kindly as me, and I thank them for that. (Applause.) Thank you.
Believe it or not, I actually read in the press this reference that said that since I'll be out of work soon -- (laughter) -- that if I can skate and shoot and I'm not very expensive, the Giants would consider offering me a position. Well, I'm used to absorbing blows, but that's about the only qualification I have. (Laughter.) Senator Mitchell, however, comes from Maine, where they play hockey all the time, and I think you should consider offering him a position. He is very well suited for it. (Applause.)
Let me say to all of you, I have been honored to be involved in the quest for peace here for almost eight years now. It has been not a passing interest, but a passion for me and my administration, and, as many as you know, for my family as well. And I want to say a special word of thanks to my wife, and to the women here in Northern Ireland who have worked with her through the Vital Voices program and other things to try to make a contribution to the peace. (Applause.)
I came here five years ago for the first time. Now, I am back on my third visit -- no other American President can say that. I want you to know that I'm here not just because I have Irish roots, like millions of Americans; and not simply because I love the land and the people: I believe in the peace you are building. I believe there can be no turning back. I believe you are committed to that. And I think it's very important that people the world over see what you are doing and support you along the way. (Applause.)
Some of you may know, I left Dublin yesterday and I had to drive to Dundalk for this rally we had last night -- and there were one or two people there. We had this vast crowd of enthusiastic supporters of the peace. And because the weather was too bad for me to helicopter there, and I drove, apparently, some people thought I was going to drive from there to Belfast. So I want to give a special word of thanks to the thousands of people in Armagh who waited along the road. I'm sorry I wasn't there. If I'd known you were there, I would have been there. But thank you for supporting the peace process. (Applause.)
Let me say to the leaders who are here and the others who were involved with the development of the Good Friday Accord back in 1998, I remember it very well. I remember how hard Prime Ministers Blair and Ahern, and George Mitchell, and all the leaders here worked on the Good Friday Accord. I remember time and time again being called, saying that this or that problem had arisen and maybe the agreement couldn't be reached.
And just before dawn on Good Friday, when the final momentum was building, one of your leaders said to me, in a very tired voice -- I'll never forget it -- this is a life-and-death meeting. And then he added, but we'll make it happen. When they did, I remember saying to that person, go and claim your moment.
That is what I have to say today. After the Good Friday Accord was reached, the people of Northern Ireland sealed it in an overwhelming vote for peace. And so I say, it is still for you to claim your moment.
Look what has happened: a local government representing all the people; everyday problems addressed by local ministers who answer to local citizens -- across party lines, I might add, as I have personally witnessed -- an Executive that has adopted a budget and a program of government; and along the way, all the sort of messy squabbles and fights that you expect in a democracy.
I mean, look at us, we've been doing it in America for 224 years and, as you might have noticed, we still have these minor disagreements from time to time. (Laughter and applause.)
I ask you to remember this. The difficulties of sharing power in a free, peaceful democratic system are nothing compared to the difficulties of not having any power at all, or of living with constant insecurity and violence. It's easy to overlook that. When people are in war, they measure the progress by counting victims. When people are involved in peaceful endeavors, it's easy to forget to measure because the measurement is in pain avoided.
How many children are alive today in Northern Ireland because deaths from sectarian violence are now a small fraction of what they were before the Good Friday Accords? How many precious days of normality have been --
THE PRESIDENT: Tell you what, I'll make you a deal: I'll listen to you, if you let me finish. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.
(Audience interruption continues.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think he rejected the deal. (Laughter.) I'll tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I'll ignore him if you will. (Applause.) Thank you.
How many days of normality have you gained because the checkpoints on the border aren't there anymore, because honest people can go to a pub or a school or a church without the burden of a search or the threat of a bomb? You have spent so many years mourning your losses. I hope you will now celebrate with pride and defend with passion the progress you have made.
Just look at this arena here. Ten years ago, I'm not sure you could have gotten the investment necessary to build this arena or to revitalize the entire Laganside area. But over the five years just passed, as hopes for peace have grown, the economy has grown -- manufacturing up 27 percent, foreign investment almost 70 percent, the number of American firms growing from 40 to 100, 22,000 new jobs there alone. More people coming in than moving out.
Once President Kennedy said that happiness is -- I quote -- "the full use of your powers along lines of excellence." Today, more and more young people have a chance to fully use their powers along lines of excellence here at home. Of course, there are still challenges -- to spread opportunity to the most disadvantaged, to integrate into the mainstream those who have turned their backs on violence. But bitter, old divisions are falling away.
A few months ago, students from St. Joseph's College and Knockbreda High School, who study a half-mile apart, met for the very first time and toured the sights of Belfast. One of them said, "I always just saw their school badge, but never talked to them. But when we met, we got on brilliant."
Students from both schools are working with their counterparts from Mullingar Community College in the Republic to promote local recycling efforts. They're all taking part in Civic Link, an initiative supported by the Department of Education in the United States. Give them a hand there. (Applause.)
This initiative we have supported through the Department of Education, and under your good friend, Secretary Dick Riley, it has already brought together some 2,000 students and over 70 schools to break down barriers, build goodwill, and live lives based on tolerance and mutual respect. So I thank the ones, the students who are here, and I hope more will participate.
Now, amidst all this momentum, why are we having this meeting and why are all you showing up here? Because we've still got problems and headaches. And I just went through a whole lot of meetings about it.
Two years ago, George Mitchell said that implementing the Good Friday agreement would be harder than negotiating it. Why? Well, first, because the devil is always in the details. And, second, because human nature being what it is, it's always easier to talk about high-minded change than it is to pull it off, or even to feel it inside.
In spite of the overwhelming support for the Good Friday agreement and the evident progress already brought, opponents of peace still try to exploit the implementation controversies, to rub salt in old wounds and serve their own ends. And others, for their own purposes, still stand on the sidelines, watching and just waiting for something to go wrong. Well, I wanted you all to come together, first to show the world that the great majority of the people of Northern Ireland are still on the side of peace and want it to prevail -- (applause) -- second, to say again to the proponents of violence that their way is finished -- (applause) -- and, third, to reaffirm, even in this great arena, that peace, unlike hockey, is not a spectator sport. (Applause.)
No one can afford to sit on the sidelines. The progress that the leaders have made has only been possible because they knew when they took risks for peace they were acting on the yearning of the people for peace.
For years you have made your view clear: Violence is not the answer. Peace is the path to justice. The Good Friday Accords define that path. Last week's tragic killings are a brutal reminder of a past we all wish to leave behind that is not completely gone, and a sober reminder that failing to move forward risks slipping backward.
As the promises of the Good Friday Accords are fulfilled or deferred, trust between the parties will rise or fall. We have seen that when trust rises and people work together, peace grows stronger; and when trust unravels, peace is made more vulnerable.
The people of Northern Ireland must be clear and unequivocal about your support for peace. Remember, the enemies of peace don't really need your approval. All they need is your apathy. (Applause.)
I do not believe you want Northern Ireland ever again to be a place where tomorrow's dreams are clouded by yesterday's nightmares. The genius of the Good Friday agreement still remains its core principles of consent, equality, justice, respect for each other and for law and order. These ideas are big enough to embody the aspirations, hopes and needs of all the people of Northern Ireland.
As I said before, your progress in putting these principles into practice has truly been remarkable. But, again, we all know there is still much to do before the agreement's vision is fully and finally realized. We know, for example, there must be a full and irrevocable commitment to effecting change only through peaceful means -- through ballots, not bullets. That means putting all arms fully, finally and forever beyond use. (Applause.) Last week's IRA statement on this topic was a welcome development; the follow-through will be even more so.
We welcome the contribution of those paramilitaries observing a cease-fire. Those who reject peace should know there is no place for them to hide. (Applause.) Based on my conversations with Prime Minister Ahern in Dublin yesterday, and with Prime Minister Blair today, I want to say that the United States will intensify its cooperation with British and Irish authorities on counterterrorism, to combat groups seeking to undermine the Good Friday Accords through violence. (Applause.)
We are going to get experts from the three nations together in the near future, and the United States will continue to work in a systematic way to do whatever we can to help to root out terrorism and to make this peace agreement take hold.
Now, we also know that real respect for human rights must be woven into the fabric of all your institutions. The light this will cast is the best guarantee that political violence will disappear. That's why it is so important to have a police force that inspires pride and confidence in all the people. (Applause.)
Just before our gathering here, I met with victims of the violence -- quite a large number of them who lost their children, their husbands, their wives, their limbs, their livelihood. Among them was the widow of an RUC officer and the sister of a slain defense attorney. Together, they offer the best testimony to the need to honor those who unjustifiably sacrificed their lives, their health or their loved ones. We should honor those who have done their duty in the past while making a fresh start toward a police service that will protect, serve and involve everyone equally in the years to come. (Applause.)
Finally, and maybe most important of all, for the vision of the Good Friday agreement to be fully realized, all sides must be fully engaged with each other, understanding that they must move forward together or not at all; that for one community to succeed, the whole community must succeed.
Over the last several hours today I have talked to the parties. I'm convinced they do all genuinely want this peace process to work. They know how far it has come. They know how irresponsible it would be to permit it to fail. On the basis of our discussion, it is clear to me that's what must happen to move the process forward. First, the Patton Report must be implemented, and on that basis leaders from every part of the community must commit to make the new police service work.
There must be security normalization and arms must be put beyond use. This will lead to a reduction of fear and mistrust on all sides. And somehow these processes must take place together, giving practical effect on the ground to the rhetorical promise of peace.
I think we can do this. Of course, it will be difficult. But I urge the parties, the political parties here, the British and Irish governments, the communities themselves, to work out the way forward in the coming days and weeks. And we will do all we can to help.
I have said before to all of you -- I did two years ago when I was here -- how profoundly important peace in Northern Ireland is to the rest of the world.
This morning, when I got up, I saw the Prime Minister of Ethiopia on television, discussing the agreement the United States helped to broker there, between Ethiopia and Eritrea. I have been heavily involved in the Middle East for eight years now, and in many of the tribal conflicts in Africa, in a little understood border conflict in the Andes and many other places.
And let me tell you, you cannot imagine the impact of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland on troubled regions of the world -- in Africa and the Middle East, in Latin America and, of course, in the Balkans, where the United States has been heavily involved in my time. Peace continues to be challenged all around the world. It is more important than ever to say: but look what they did in Northern Ireland and look what they are doing in Northern Ireland. (Applause.)
In the end, there has to be a belief that you can only go forward together; that you cannot be lifted up by putting your neighbor down. You know, I think -- and I talk in the United States about this a lot -- our children will live in a completely different world than the one we have known. Just for example, because of the human genome project, which is going to give us cures for many kinds of cancers -- Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and, more important, will give mothers bringing little babies home from the hospital, road maps of their children's genetic make-up and future -- very soon, life expectancy in places with decent health systems will be over 90 years. And the lives of the young people in this audience, I am convinced, average life expectancy will rise to 100 years.
You will seen new sources of energy tapped and new conservation technologies developed that will enable human beings for the first time both to increase wealth and to reduce energy use and global warming, ensuring a longer future on this planet for the great-grandchildren of the youngest people in this audience today. You will be able to, you young people, travel farther and faster through outer space and cyberspace even than people can today. The world will be so different for you.
Now, I think the children of Northern Ireland deserve their fair chance to be a full part of that future. (Applause.) I believe the people of Northern Ireland want that for their children, and that means the leaders of Northern Ireland must find a way to do what is necessary to give that future to your children.
You know, this is the last chance I will have as President to speak to the people of Northern Ireland. Let me say to all of you that I have tried to be pretty straightforward today in my remarks, and not nearly as emotional as I feel. I think you know that I have loved this land and love the work I have tried to do for peace. But the issue is not how I feel, it's how your kids are going to live. (Applause.)
I say to all of you, it has been a great honor for me; it has been an honor for the United States to be involved in the cause of peace in a land that produced the forbearers of so many of present-day America's citizens. I believe that the United States will be with you in the future. I know I will be with you in the future in whatever way I can. (Applause.)
But in the end, I will say again, what really matters is not what America does; and what really matters is not even all the encouragement you give to people around the world. What really matters is what you do and whether you decide to give your children not your own yesterdays, but their own tomorrows.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 5:03 P.M. (L)
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