Issued by the Government Press Office
Check Against Delivery
Madam Speaker, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President.
Members of Congress, Distinguished Guests and Friends.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona Daoibh go léir. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Mr. President, Madam Speaker, the Irish people have always had a dialogue with the American people. It is genuine, it is warm, and it has stood the test of time.
Your political and civic leaders - of all parties and backgrounds – helped shape the country that Ireland is today.
Today, I want to thank the Friends of Ireland Caucus, under the outstanding leadership of Chairmen Richie Neal and Pete King.
From its inception, the Caucus has been strictly bipartisan - in its composition and when it comes to issues like Northern Ireland.
From Tip O’Neill to Richie Neal, from Ted Kennedy to Pete King, its members, Democrat and Republican alike, helped lay the foundations for the Good Friday Agreement. A compromise brokered by Senator George Mitchell and guaranteed by international law.
As Congressman Brendan Boyle, the son of an immigrant from Glencolmcille in Co. Donegal, has recently said, it is ‘one of the great foreign policy achievements of the 20th century.’
And I want to say on behalf of the Irish Government and behalf of the Irish people, that we thank the Friends of Ireland caucus in congress for their vital help at this critical time to protect the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and ensure there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, whatever happens with Brexit.
Madam Speaker, President Reagan once said that ‘a people free to choose will always choose peace.’ He was right, and I know the land of liberty will continue to protect that fundamental freedom.
I also want to acknowledge our friend, (former) Congressman Bruce Morrison, who helped make that peace possible as well. Today his name is celebrated in every county in Ireland because of the work he did to allow Irishmen and Irishwomen make the American dream their own.
I believe the new E3 visa programme is true to our shared history and offers a chance for a new generation of talented, hard-working, dreamers to give something to this great country. I hope that will come to pass.
Madam Speaker, 100 years ago in 1919 a congress of Irish men and women declared our independence, making a bold statement about democracy, freedom, self determination and liberty that was heard around the world.
Our freedom – our liberty – our prosperity was not achieved all at once. There were a series of stepping stones along the way.
And one of those stepping stones was our new Constitution, Bunreacht na hEireann in 1937. When I was preparing for this speech, I had a chance to come across something really interesting in our archives.
81 years when our Constitution came into effect, a message of support was sent to us from the United States, signed by almost 300 Congressmen and Governors, Democrat and Republican alike.
On that documents are names like Harry S. Truman, Richard Russell, and Henry Cabot Lodge Jnr.
Madam Speaker, I would like to present you and Congress with a framed copy of the message. To symbolise our historic connection, to remind us of our shared values, and to inspire us about what we can achieve together in the future.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.