THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
The Oval Office
10:27 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Ladies and gentlemen, today is the last day of this session of Congress. And, therefore, it's the last day that all of us in America have the privilege of having George Mitchell as the Senate Majority Leader. I will personally miss him very much -- his wise counsel, his support, his strong leadership for the American people.
I know that his colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the American people will also miss his leadership, and the thoughtfulness and the courage that have distinguished him throughout his long career. My regret about his retirement is tempered, at least in some measure, by the fact that as one chapter in his life of extraordinary public service closes, another is opening.
Today, Senator Mitchell has agreed to work on an issue of central importance to me and to our country as Special Adviser to the President and the Secretary of State for Economic Initiatives in Ireland. We stand on the verge of a new and peaceful era in Northern Ireland. For over three months, the historic cease-fires between the IRA and the loyalist parliamentary groups have held. I welcome today's invitation by Downing Street to Sinn Fein to begin an exploratory dialogue by December the 7th.
A just and lasting settlement that respects the rights and traditions of the two communities in Northern Ireland is, after so many years of bloodshed, finally within reach. But at this hopeful and historic moment, it's essential to create more economic opportunity in a region whose prospects have been so blighted by bloodshed. There must be a peace dividend in Ireland for the peace to succeed. Peace and prosperity depend upon one another.
One of the most important ways that we here in the United States can ensure that peace takes root is to promote trade and investment in the areas of Ireland that have suffered the most from violence. That's why last month we announced our Economic Initiatives for Ireland. They're a response to the call of all the parties in the region for the development that will help them to lift themselves out of the cycle of conflict and despair.
As we have in the past, the United States stands ready to help those who are taking risks for peace. To do that, we'll work in close cooperation with the private sector here in the United States and with Britain, Ireland and other concerned parties in Europe and elsewhere. Ultimately, of course, the success of the peace process will depend most on those who have been most affected, on whether they believe it will give them a better future.
That's why our initiatives to help vitalize the economy are so important, and why I wanted someone of great talent, great stature, and great wisdom to lead in that effort here in the United States. No one fills that bill like George Mitchell. He will oversee the White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland which will be held in April of next year in Philadelphia.
I've asked him to ensure implementation of all the initiatives we announced last month, to explore additional opportunities for helping peace and prosperity grow in Ireland. He'll consult with the International Fund for Ireland, with the Congress and with others to strengthen the fund's programs. He'll also begin a dialogue with the European Union, its individual member nations and other nations to promote economic development in all these areas.
I believe in the weeks and months ahead, the people of Ireland will come to respect and admire George Mitchell just as much as all of us here in the United States have.
George, I am delighted today to be able to say thank you, again, for public service and not just farewell.
SENATOR MITCHELL: Thank you very much. Mr. President, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Ambassador, friends: I'm pleased and honored to be here today to accept the post of Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State for economic initiatives in Ireland.
For the people of Northern Ireland, this is a time of great hope after many years of despair. The leadership of President Clinton in helping to bring about this foreign policy success has been significant and too little appreciated. I commend him for his courageous support of the peace process, which has played a key role in creating this moment of opportunity. The President has also designed the creative array of economic initiatives we are undertaking -- actions which will offer opportunities to Americans as well as to help make the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland a lasting one.
The chance to work on Northern Ireland at this hopeful time means a great deal to me. My father was the orphaned son of Irish immigrants. I have visited Ireland. I look forward to cooperating with the hard-working people of that beautiful island.
As Majority Leader in the Senate, I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable people -- here in America and from other parts of the world: heads of government, leaders in business in industry, those in the forefront of community development. I look forward to renewing many of these acquaintances, and to work to increase economic opportunity in Northern Ireland and the border counties. When people have a chance for a steady job, home ownership, greater prosperity for themselves and for their children, they are much less likely to fall into the destructive patterns of violence, crime and sectarian hatred.
As the President's announcement of our economic initiative is noted, Americans should be in on the ground floor of these new opportunities. This will be good for us, and good for Irish peace and reconciliation. I take great satisfaction in having this announcement made on a day on which I'm confident the Senate will join the House in affirming America's commitment to free trade and open markets, and greater prosperity, by passing the historic GATT Agreement.
The economic initiatives for Northern Ireland will not be handouts; rather, in the spirit of GATT, they will be open doors -- trade and investment -- so that Americans can prosper from the new climate in which barriers of all kinds are collapsing.
And finally, I'm glad to be embarking on a mission which has broad support in this country, from both sides of the aisle, in both Houses of Congress, and among the American people. I know that both communities in Northern Ireland want peace and prosperity as well.
The search for peace in Northern Ireland is obviously primarily a matter for those most directly involved: the people of Northern Ireland, the governments of Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The American role will continue to be one of supporting the efforts of the British and Irish governments to make that dream a reality. I am proud to be a part of that effort. I thank the President very much. I will assume this position on January 10th, and I look forward to a successful conference on economic initiatives in Northern Ireland.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
SENATOR MITCHELL: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, very much.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
Q Senator Mitchell, do you anticipate working on the peace process, and perhaps peace talks between British and Irish representatives?
Q When's the wedding?
THE PRESIDENT: Do you want to answer that question, George?
Q Senator, when's the wedding?
THE PRESIDENT: He wants to wait until January 10th to answer other questions. (Laughter.)
SENATOR MITCHELL: In December.
Q What are your plans for this weekend, Senator? (Laughter.)
Q Senator, are you going to the conference in Belfast -- the investment conference in Belfast?
SENATOR MITCHELL: I'll be discussing the conference with Secretary Brown, but I'm not assuming this position until January 10th. Therefore, I don't expect to be active on the matter until then. We still have to go up and pass GATT now.
Thank you very much.
Q This weekend? (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:35 A.M. EST