President Clinton Commends Northern Ireland Peace Agreement

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 10, 1998


The Oval Office

2:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. After a 30-year winterof sectarian violence, Northern Ireland today has the promise of aspringtime of peace. The agreement that has emerged from theNorthern Ireland peace talks opens the way for the people there tobuild a society based on enduring peace, justice, and equality. Thevision and commitment of the participants in the talks has made realthe prayers for peace on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides ofthe peace line.

All friends of Ireland and Northern Ireland know thetask of making the peace endure will be difficult. The path of peaceis never easy. But the parties have made brave decisions. They havechosen hope over hate, the promise of the future over the poison ofthe past. And in so doing, already they have written a new chapterin the rich history of their island -- a chapter of resolute couragethat inspires us all.

In the days to come, there may be those who will try toundermine this great achievement -- not only with words but perhapsalso with violence. All the parties and all the rest of us muststand shoulder to shoulder to defy any such appeals.

On this Good Friday, we give thanks for the work ofPrime Minister Ahern and Prime Minister Blair, two truly remarkableleaders who did an unbelievable job in these talks. We give thanksfor the work of Senator George Mitchell, who was brilliant andunbelievably patient and long suffering. We give thanks especiallyto the leaders of the parties, for they had to make the courageousdecisions. We also thank Prime Minister Blair and Prime MinisterAhern's predecessors for starting and nurturing the process of peace.

Together, all these people have created the best chancefor peace in a generation. In May, the people of Ireland andNorthern Ireland will have the chance to seize the gift they havebeen given. At this Easter season, British and Irish leaders havefollowed the admonition of Luke, "to give light to them who sit indarkness and in the shadow of death and to guide their feet into theway of peace." For that, peace-loving people the world over can bevery grateful.

Q Mr. President, what promises or assurances did theUnited States make to help move this process along?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, from the very beginning all I havetried to do is to help create the conditions in which peace coulddevelop, and then to do whatever I was asked to do or whatever seemedhelpful to encourage and support the parties in the search for peace.And that's all I did last night.

Q Did you offer any assistance in terms of financialaid, and what did you think --


Q -- where did you really weigh in in all those phonecalls.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the answer to yourfirst question is no. Now, we have, as all of you know, aninternational fund for Ireland, which I have strongly supported. AndI do believe that there will be very significant economic benefitsflowing to the people of Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic, inNorthern Ireland and in the Republic, if this peace takes hold. Butthere was no specific financial assurance sought, nor was any given.

In terms of the give and take, you know, I made a lot ofphone calls last night and up until this morning -- actually untilright before the last session. But I think the specifics are not allthat important. I did what I was asked to do. Again, I was largelyguided by the work of Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Ahern.I had a very -- a long talk, in the middle of the night for me, lastnight with Senator Mitchell about his work there, and I'm lookingforward to seeing him early next week. I just did what I thoughtwould help. And I tried to do what I was asked to do.

Q Mr. President, will you be going to Belfast nowthat they've reached a deal?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I really haven't had muchdiscussion about it. No decision has been made. This is not even aday to think about that. This is a day to celebrate the achievementof the people and the peace talks.

Q President Clinton, do you feel somewhat vindicatedfor the policies that -- including giving Gerry Adams a visa here--that have come under scrutiny and at times have brought you somederision from other parts of the world for being too provocative.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, when I did it, I thought it wouldhelp to create a climate in which peace might emerge. And I believeit was a positive thing to do. I believed it then, I believe it now.

But make no mistake about it. Whenever peace is made bypeople anywhere, the credit belongs to the parties whose own livesand livelihoods and children and future are on the line. And that'sthe way I feel today. If anything that I or the United States wasable to do was helpful, especially because of our historic ties toGreat Britain and because of the enormous number of Irish Americanswe have and the feelings we have for the Irish and their troubles,then I am very grateful. But the credit for this belongs to thepeople who made the decisions.

Q What role do you expect to play from now on?

Q Mr. President, have how fragile is the peaceagreement? How fragile is it and will it be able to withstand aviolation of the cease-fire?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the parties will honor it.They fought too hard over the details -- down to the eleventh hourand then some. They even went past Senator Mitchell's deadline andwell into this Good Friday. Given Irish history, maybe it'sappropriate that this was done on this day.

So they fought too hard over the details to violatethem. I expect the parties to honor the agreement. And then it'sreally up to the people. The people of Northern Ireland and thepeople of the Republic of Ireland are going to have a vote on it inMay, in late May, and their judgment will prevail.

Will there be those who are disgruntled, who may seek toviolate the cease-fire, who are not part of the parties that havesigned off on this agreement? There may well be. But if we allstand shoulder-to-shoulder together and everyone understands that theintegrity of the leaders and the parties that are part of thisprocess is still unshakable and rock solid, I think we'll be allright. We just need to let the Irish people have their say, and Ithink they will have their say.

Q What role do you expect to play from now on in thisprocess, in terms of trying to maintain this agreement?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know. If I can behelpful, I will. That's been my position all along. That's what Itell everybody that talks to me about it. But no decision has beenmade about that and, you know, the United States believes in thisprocess passionately. I, personally, am deeply committed to it. Andif 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 nodecision made.

Q Mr. President, could there have been an agreementtoday without your efforts last night?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I certainly -- I wouldn't say therecouldn't have been. I was asked to help; I did my best to help.

But let me say again, there were people that I wastalking to up until 8:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., even later this morning whohaven't been to bed in 48 hours. They sat and talked and worked andfought and argued and got back together. And for some of them, theyput their political lives on the line; others may have put even moreon 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 justtried to do what I was asked to do. If I played a positive role, I'mgrateful to have had the chance to do so.

Q Happy Easter. Are you going to Camp David?

THE PRESIDENT: I am. We're going up probably in theearly evening and I hope all of you have a great holiday. Bless you.

Q What are you going to do about the Middle East?(Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we got Bosnia and Haiti, and now,I hope, Ireland. And I'll just keep working on it. The Irish thingought to give you hope for the Middle East because the lesson is:just don't ever stop. And in the end, if the will for peace isstronger than the impulse to avoid it, and the impulse to avoid thetough decisions and the sacrifices that are made -- that have to bemade -- then the will for peace can prevail. That's the lesson here.

So I would hope that those who care desperately aboutthe Middle East and want the peace process there to prevail will takegreat heart here, because believe you me, I know a lot about this.There were a lot of tough decisions which had to be made, nobodycould get everything they wanted, and risks had to be taken. Andthey were taken. And they now will be taken. And it seems to methat the friends of peace in the Middle East should take great heartfrom this and perhaps we'll even find some examples that could befollowed.

Thank you.

Q Mrs. Clinton said that peace in Ireland is anarticle of faith. Is there going to be any kind of Clintoncelebration here this evening?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm celebrating right now, but we needto let the Irish people have their say. That's going to be in a fewweeks.

Q Going to let these guys go to sleep?

THE PRESIDENT: Right now I want these guys to go tosleep. I hope nothing serious happens to our country in the nexteight hours, because I've got a bunch of pickle brains in the NSC.(Laughter.)

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