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Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's address at Guinness Storehouse, Dublin. Tuesday 12 December 2000

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Page compiled: Martin Melaugh

Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach, address at Guinness Storehouse, Dublin. Tuesday 12 December 2000

Mr. President, First Lady and Senator-elect, Chelsea, friends. We're gathered here today to pay our tribute to President Clinton and to say a warm thank you to him for eight years of strong leadership which has helped bring the benefits of peace and prosperity to people in Ireland, and to people all over the world.

We're gathered for this tribute to President Clinton in St. James' Gate in the heart of the Liberties of the greatest city in the world. The Liberties are one of Dublin's great communities, and it's here that a great Irish businessman, Arthur Guinness, started the brew Guinness over 250 years ago, which in time became a global brand with strong links to Ireland.

And the Guinness story, ladies and gentlemen, reminds us that innovation and trade are very much part and parcel of the heritage of Dublin and this community. And we're working hard to make sure that innovation remains a hallmark of this country into the future. For example, here in the Liberties, plans are underway to develop a digital hub as part of our strategy for this country to be a leader in the new Internet-enabled economy. At the heart of this district will be Media-lab Europe, a unique partnership between my government and the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It will bring two global names together - Guinness and Media-lab, symbols of the strong partnership across the Atlantic, which is the grounds for our confidence about the future.

We will build a future here, using the creativity of researchers and students, entrepreneurs and artists from Ireland to the whole world. And we renew the fabric of this historic community and cherish its heritage. And as evidence of the same spirit of partnership in the new technologies, I'm pleased to announce the result of the work of the National Research and Education Network provider, the HEAnet. Broad-band links are set to increase over 20 times between Irish and U.S. research institutions. It will mean closer research cooperation in Internet, too, and next-generation initiatives between our higher institutes of learning, going forward.

Mr. President, in the eight years of your presidency, Ireland has changed, and changed very fast. We've a new economy and a modern society. The economy is now in its seventh year of sustained growth, has grown by over 9 percent per annum in the last three years. A key part of that success has been the social partnership model which has underpinned strong economic and social development.

But we have also been fortunate to benefit from a positive international economic environment, including a very positive and a dynamic relationship with a strong U.S. economy during the Clinton years. In your term of office the U.S. has led the new technologies and U.S. business has globalized. Ireland has proved exceptionally attractive as location for them in Europe. Ireland has captured up to 10 percent of all U.S. foreign direct investment into the EU in recent years, and up to 40 percent of greenfield investment in electronics.

Many of the companies represented here today have invested hugely in Ireland in the past eight years. Among these are Dell and Gateway, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Intel, and many more. And the pattern of investment has continued. This year Intel announced that it is building a third microprocessor plant in Dublin, at a cost of $1.8 billion U.S. American Home Products, Wyeth Medica are making the largest investment of bio-pharmaceuticals ever in the world, also here in Dublin. And yesterday, Cardinal Health announced a massive new European center in Longford, involving investment of over $100 million U.S. and resulting at over 1,300 new jobs.

We greatly value, President, these companies and their contribution to our country. Truly it can be said that the United States has repaid the role of the Irish in building America in an earlier age.

Mr. President, our economic success owes much to the great wave of prosperity and progress which America has enjoyed under your stewardship. But you've also worked to ensure the prosperity is shared by all. You've led the debate about the need to make sure that the global economy brings economic, social, as well as political benefits to communities around the world.

Mr. President, you also brought the skills and energy you so generously gave to us to other troubled parts of the world. This richer work in Ireland, your term as President has been marked by a clear desire to understand the complexities of each conflict, to help where you could, and above all, to make the world a better place. You fundamentally understood that the world is now one place.

We cannot look at the face of hunger and ignore it, because the poor and the hungry will come to us. We cannot see the scenes of ecological or natural devastation and say it has nothing to do with us, because it inevitably will affect us. We cannot say that disease elsewhere is not our problem, because it will eventually come to everyone unless it is stopped early in its tracks.

As an island with an open economy, President, as a society with people of Irish ancestry in every corner of the world, as a people who have had our own share of human catastrophe, we in Ireland know instinctively that the world is a single village, as vulnerable or as strong as the human bonds within it.

And you've understood, too, Mr. President, you've helped shape and define America's responsibility in the world of today. You've engaged with the cause of Africa. You've given global leadership in the fight against diseases, particularly HIV-AIDS, which are undermining development in Africa. And the peace agreement signed today in Algiers between Ethiopia and Eritrea would not have come about without the mediation efforts of your Special Envoy, Tony Lake.

Mr. President, I don't really need to say it because I heard all of the parliamentarians, all the members of both houses of the Oireachtas, as they had the honor of meeting you and the First Lady, but you approached the situation in Northern Ireland with an open but a determined mind - open to all views; determined to make peace and make peace work. You brought the authority of your office to the peace process. But more important, you brought the credibility of your skills and expertise.

And for those of us involved in the negotiations, before your involvement, we often found that mistrust and suspicion could be early and fatal enemies of progress. We had so many talks about talks, and meetings about meetings, that further, I think people, in particularly historians into the future, will be dizzy following them, much less understanding them.

But your involvement, aided by so many of your colleagues and under the man that you sent us, Senator Mitchell and his excellent chairmanship, parties divided by suspicion could find the necessary assurance to take meaningful steps forward. They came to believe and trust that what was banked with you was good and safe and secure. And because of Washington's engagement, we could pile up the agreed pieces until we had the makings of a deal.

And America's record as honest broker and plain speaker helped us all to force an historic compromise in the Good Friday agreement. That settlement should rightly be regarded as part of your legacy, President, as peacemaker, and we'll never forget it in this country.

The Good Friday agreement is the common ground on which both traditions can stand, for that is uniquely historic and uniquely valuable. More than that, it's the common ground for all Irish men and women, wherever they are, however near or distant their ancestry.

Mr. President, relations between our two countries have blossomed under your presidency. Ireland has changed profoundly. But I have confidence that Ireland and the United States will continue to develop the common bonds of friendship, family, of commerce and shared values of ancestry and heritage. And today, it is my honor to say a profound thank you for all that you have done to make hope and history rhyme as never before in silent.

President, I want to say personally, thank you for all of the time, all of the calls, all of the meetings. It never ceased to amaze me and all of my colleagues, and I think here I speak for everybody in this country, that you could try to involve yourself in the world's economic and business and cultural heritage and the issues of the day. But every time that we needed you, that you had time to make a call. You never seemed to be busy; you always seemed at that time to talk a true.

But I know, President, when I read the paper the following day that the President was here, he was there, he was in India, he was in Pakistan, he was in Korea, he was wherever. He was moving through the world, dealing with the issues, meeting the world leaders, and still he had time to give to a country that has, North and South, about 5 million people. And that, we'll never forget.

And then I say to the First Lady, she has been here so many times; even, I think, President, more times than you. And I want to say to her that we appreciate all of that. She's had a huge, huge effect on Irish people, men and women, young people, giving them encouragement of what to do at North and South. And if I can say, First Lady, that we really wish you well, and a friend we know that we'll have in the next Senate. Give them hell.

Mr. President, you and your family will always be welcome here. I'm delighted that Chelsea is here today, because back in September Chelsea promised me that she'd get the President and First Lady here. So if we can, on behalf of everybody here, President, and to the extended community all over Ireland, that I assure you would love to be here, we wish you Godspeed and happiness, as you all go forward now to a new phase of your important work. Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

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