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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 16, 2001

Remarks by the President and Prime Minister Bertie Ahern During Shamrock Presentation
The Roosevelt Room

10:36 A.M. EST

THE PRIME MINISTER: Mr. President and First Lady, on behalf of the government and the people of Ireland, I wish you all and all the distinguished guests that are here, a very happy St. Patrick's Day. It's a particular pleasure to be here, with you, on your first St. Patrick's Day as President of the United States.

Today is one of celebration. In Ireland and throughout the world, Irish people of all traditions and religions come together on St. Patrick's Day, to honor their native land and their shared heritage. We are joined by many millions of Irish decent, especially here in the United States. And we are happy to welcome those who just want the privilege of being Irish for the day. (Laughter.)

Today we also remember St. Patrick, himself. We remember that he first came to Ireland as an exile in a strange land. We think of those around the world who, today, find themselves in the same predicament. And we think of all those, who on leaving our shores, found a new home here, in America. In building a better future for themselves and their children, they also helped to build America, itself.

Mr. President, the deep bonds between our two nations go beyond the ties of family and heritage. We share a commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights. As a current member of the Security Council of the United Nations, we're working intensely with you to promote these values across the world.

Our economic and commercial links have never been stronger. The United States is poised to become, for the first time ever, Ireland's largest trading partner. American investors find in Ireland a rewarding economic environment, shaped by our commitment to education and to enterprise.

For many years now, Americans of both parties in the administration and Congress and in the states and cities across this great country have supported efforts to achieve a lasting and a comprehensive political settlement in Ireland. As the British and Irish governments and the political parties now work together to complete the implementation of the Good Friday Agreements, it is good to be able to count on true friends.

I thank you, President, for your warm words of encouragement, and for your continued and strong commitment to assisting us in our vital task. And we deeply appreciate the words that you said yesterday on Capitol Hill.

Mr. President, though it's a simple plant, the shamrock is richly symbolic. It was used by St. Patrick to explain how three persons might exist in one God. More recently, it has come to illustrate the concept of unity and diversity, which sums up both the American experience and our enduring hopes for peace and reconciliation in Ireland. And I present it to you today as a symbol of the unique ties which draw our two nations together.

Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Taoiseach, thank you very much, sir. We're so honored you're here. Laura and I welcome you, and welcome our guests. Thank you all for coming. We accept this crystal of shamrocks not just as a symbol of Ireland, but as a symbol of a strong friendship between our nations, our shared values and shared history and shared hopes. Thank you for continuing this St. Patrick's Day tradition. And we really appreciate this wonderful gift.

But St. Patrick's Day is also a time for everyone to reflect on Ireland's many gifts to the world. We are thankful, first, for all that Ireland and the Prime Minister have done to further the cause of peace in Northern Ireland. There's an Irish expression, "the work praises the man." The peace that holds today in Northern Ireland is no small measure a tribute to the Prime Minister and his courageous leadership. And I assured him, and will continue to do so, that the United States stands ready to help in any way that the governments involved need.

The world is also thankful for the thousands of peacekeepers Ireland sends to other troubled corners of the globe, everywhere from Kosovo to East Timor. And we're thankful for the generous development aid Ireland sends to the world's poorest nations.

But Ireland's most precious gift to the world has been the Irish. No nation has benefited more from Irish talent and industry than the United States. You've given us presidents, nine signers of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, so many Irish served as volunteers in the Continental Army, a Lord in Parliament lamented, we have lost America to the Irish. (Laughter.)

Today, over 44 million Irish-Americans reinforce the natural bonds of friendship between our nations. The United States is proud of our strong ties of trade and investment, and proud that they have contributed to the strong economy that you have led. We look forward to working even more closely with Ireland, particularly now that it serves on the U.N. Security Council.

According to legend, St. Patrick returned to Ireland after hearing the Irish people beckon him in a dream, to come and walk among us once more. Well, today, it is a world that beckons the Irish to continue walking among us, and sharing with us the rich culture, the large hearts and good works.

So Mr. Prime Minister, America is proud to call Ireland a friend, not just on St. Patrick's Day, but on every day. Welcome. (Applause.)

END 10:42 A.M. EST

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