Seamus Mallon's Address at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, Thursday 3 September 1998
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Seamus Mallon, Deputy First Minister designate, address at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast
President Clinton, Prime Minister, First
minister, distinguished guests. It is my pleasure, and honour,
to welcome you back to Northern Ireland. It is indeed fitting,
Mr president, that a man from a town called Hope in Arkansas has
come again to a place where hope lives again as a result of your
interest, encouragement and help.
As a candidate for the presidency back
in 1992 you made a promise: "Senator Gore and I share the
goal of all Irish-Americans for peace in Northern Ireland. We
believe that the United States must reflect this concern more
effectively in its foreign policy." You have delivered on
your commitment. You have helped us to break free, against all
the odds, free from a violent and bitter past to set forth on
the awesome, yet exciting road on our new journey of hope.
We the people of Ireland also made our
commitment when we signed the Good Friday agreement and endorsed
it in referenda. We also will deliver on our commitment. We will
implement the agreement in full and make it a beacon of hope for
The prime minister put it well for all
of us when he came to Castle Buildings for the concluding days
of the all-party negotiations he felt the hand of history
on his shoulder. Neither the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern nor he ever
wavered in their efforts to help us create a new way of life.
We thank them for their commitment and their resolve to end our nightmare of violence and political uncertainty.
And there was the man who came as a
mediator and left when he eventually got away as
our friend. I refer to the eminent jurist, and distinguished senate
majority leader, known simply and affectionately in these parts
as 'George'. His patience, skill and deep humanity eased us through
the darkest days and nights and led us quite literally
into the morning light of Good Friday. Thank you, George; we are
proud to have known you.
As we take pleasure in the progress
achieved and acknowledge the help our friends have given us on
our journey, we remember the terrible price that has been paid
by so many during those terrible years. Mr president, when you
meet the people of Omagh who have suffered so dreadfully during
this cruel summer, when you speak to victims of 30 years of violence
in Armagh; when you speak to people on the street you will see
pain in their eyes .
It may well remind you, as I do now,
of the words from a poem by Maya Angelou spoken at your inauguration
an 20th January 1993: "Lift up your faces, you
have a piercing need for this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." That 'wrenching pain' can only be fathomed by those
who have suffered most, but you will also see a readiness to face
history with a courage which will touch you, just as it has inspired
I believe passionately that one of the
profound benefits of the Good Friday agreement is the capacity
it gives us to break free from the past and write our own history.
To do so, we all need to create space for each other.
We are limited only by what we have agreed.
The road to the future is always under
construction. The democratic institution of the assembly will
take root to become a living symbol of hope and confidence for
all the people of Northern Ireland. We will
establish a north-south ministerial council which will serve as a model for inter-regional
relationships. We will create a British-Irish council to promote
the totality of relationships among the people of these islands
in a sense of harmony that benefits our membership of the developing
European Union. We will build a new future based on the skills,
creativity and character of our people. Our young people are a
source of hope for our future. Consequently, will give priority
to education, sharing Prime Minister Blair's view that "'unless
we get our education system right our children will not be prosperous
and our country will not be just".
We will use education and training to
combat exclusion and inequality. Most importantly, we know that
in the now information-based global economy, jobs and investment
flow to those regions which are rich in skills, and which have
a modem technological infrastructure. We will seek to work with
our American and with our European partners to create here in
Northern Ireland the most attractive conditions for growth and
This is our covenant with our people
at home, and our friends abroad. Like you, we will honour our
pledge. Together we will ensure that "tomorrow is another
Mr president by your presence here again
you have shown that your solidarity spans the longest day and
the darkest night. We firmly believe that a bright tomorrow dawns
for us. With us, as Robert Frost put it, you took the road "less
travelled by, and that has made all the difference".
Safe journey to us all as we set out
to ensure that "tomorrow really is another country".
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