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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 13, 1996
                      REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON
                          AT ARRIVAL CEREMONY
                            Summerall Field
                          Fort Myer, Virginia                        

10:28 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON: President Robinson, Mr. Robinson, members of the Irish delegation: On behalf of the American people, let me begin by saying to President Robinson, Ceade Mile Failte -- a hundred thousand welcomes. (Applause.)

It is a pleasure for me to return the tremendous hospitality that greeted Hillary and me and our American delegation on our visit to Ireland last fall. It is difficult to imagine being better received anywhere in the world than I was on Dublin's Green. It was a day that I will never forget. And I hope that President Robinson and the Irish delegation will feel just as welcome here in America today.

Since its first appearance in the annals of world history, Ireland has been a light unto nations. When darkness shrouded Europe 1,500 years ago, the learning of the Irish pierced the gloom. And Irish wisdom has continued to illuminate Western thought throughout the ages, from St. Patrick to Swift to Yeats to Heaney.

In recent centuries, Ireland has sent the most brilliant gift of all to the world -- the gift of its children. No nation has gained more than ours from the energy and determination these immigrants have carried with them when they departed Ireland's shores. Today, one of every six Americans claims Irish heritage. And even the awareness our nation owes to the unwavering spirit of the Irish has brought to our country more than we can ever calculate.

President Robinson, you have spoken so eloquently about the extended Irish family abroad and of an Irishness that transcends territory. It gives us all great joy that today this Irish family is one.

In our time, Ireland's beacon shines as brightly as ever and, as in the beginning, it shines for the highest values of civilization. Ireland's devotion to building peace has made a small nation a great example for all the world. In its steadfast search for a just settlement in the North, Ireland has spared no effort and never faltered before taking a risk for peace.

The road to peace is almost never straight, and we've all felt the setbacks along the way. But just as Ireland has responded to the voices of hope in the North, so has America. Today I reaffirm my pledge to the people of Ireland: We will do all we can to help to realize the bright future of peace that is the birthright of every child of Ireland, North and South. (Applause.)

As they do at home, the Irish, the Irish stand for peace in many distant lands. Every single day for almost four decades, Irish troops have been stationed abroad to preserve the peace in such places as the Congo and Somalia. At this moment they serve in nine different peacekeeping missions. And in Bosnia, members of the Irish Garda are training police so that that nation can rebuild itself and, by itself, maintain its peace growing now within the borders.

The United States and Ireland are bound by ties of kinship and friendship, commerce and culture. Above all, we share the bonds of belief, the determination to see peace take root and freedom prevail all around the world. Today we celebrate these ties. We resolve to strengthen them and to work together to see our common hopes realized and the lives of our citizens improved.

This is a happy day for America because in the hearts of so many Americans we have a special place for Ireland, and because we know that when we work with Ireland, we can make the world a better place.

President Robinson, welcome to the United States. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT ROBINSON: Mr. President, I'd like to thank you for those very warm words of welcome on this special visit. I was very honored to accept your invitation to pay a state visit here to Washington.

I have, of course, visited this country on a number of occasions as President of Ireland because, as you so rightly said, there are very close connections and over 40,000 million people living in the United States who are proud of their Irish heritage. And it was wonderful this morning to hear the Irish national anthem sung here and in this welcoming ceremony.

But this visit is special because it recognizes the closeness of the relationship between the United States and Ireland in a very special way. I recall that when President De Valera came here in 1964 to pay a state visit, he did so in the tragic and poignant aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And during his visit, there were such vivid memories of the visit to Ireland of President Kennedy and how much it had meant to Ireland at that time.

And now, as I come on this state visit, we remember very well the visit which you and the First Lady paid to Ireland at the end of November last. (Applause.) It, too, was a very special and very important visit. First of all, you were the first President of the United States to visit Northern Ireland. And we still remember with a huge sense of admiration and affection the crowds that turned out in Belfast and in Derry to greet you and to listen to your well-chosen words -- words that helped to nurture peace and reconciliation and hope.

And then you came to Dublin, and you became a "freeman of Dublin." And indeed, I encourage you to exercise that freedom whenever you wish to return to Dublin. But you continued to have the sense of the importance of what is happening on the Island of Ireland. And I would like to take this first opportunity during the state visit to acknowledge on behalf of the people of Ireland the enormous sense of gratitude and of appreciation that we have of the friendship of this great country at such an important time. It is a friendship that expresses itself in many practical ways -- in an economic conference in Washington; in the Mitchell report, which was very important; and currently, in the delicate and sensitive negotiations which are taking place. It is not just words of friendship; it is deeds and practical support and a very thoughtful, even-handed, special support.

I look forward tomorrow and, indeed, later today to expressing to members of Congress, to the majority and minority leaders, that sense of appreciation on behalf of the people of Ireland. And most of all, it is very encouraging to us that you identify so deeply with our hopes, with this special time. And I think I can conclude very simply by saying, we know that for more than 200 years, the links between the United States and Ireland have been extremely close -- links furthered by the family connections, by the deep sense of being at ease and at home with each other. Those links have been very close. But I believe they have never been closer than just at this moment.

And perhaps this is the most important moment for Ireland, at the end of this century and facing into a new millennium, when we have the opportunity to build a sustainable peace, to build friendship and reconciliation. And to have the support and friendship of the United States with us is, indeed, a great way in which we can look with hope to the importance of that future for us and for all our children.

So again, Mr. President, I thank you from my heart. I look forward very much to the next few days. And I feel at home. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 10:37 A.M. EDT