Madam Speaker, Members of Congress, Distinguished Guests, Friends, and absent friends.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona Daoibh go léir. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Madam Speaker, a good guest always returns the hospitality. I am delighted that since our lunch here a year ago I have been able to welcome you in Ireland.
This visit was an opportunity to renew our transatlantic friendship – a friendship built on an historic bond between our countries that goes back centuries.
Much has changed in the few short months since your visit.
Our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, has now left the European Union, after signing a legal undertaking which includes provisions to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has reconvened.
We have lost dear friends and warriors for peace, including former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon and Congressman Elijah Cummings.
In Ireland, we had an inconclusive general election, and a new Government has yet to be formed. And Covid 19 reminds us that we, humans, are not masters of our world.
In this world of change, three things have stayed constant.
The first is Ireland’s commitment to staying at the heart of the European Union and at the centre of EU-US relations.
The second is our conviction that the challenges we face – whether it’s the coronavirus or climate change, international security or international trade– these challenges are more easily overcome together, in a spirit of partnership.
The third is our determination that, whatever lies ahead, we will protect the achievements of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. Thank you for sharing this determination.
On behalf of the Irish people, I also want to say thank you to the members of the Friends of Ireland Caucus.
For your heartfelt interest in Ireland.
For promoting ever-deeper bilateral relations;
For seeking a fair resolution for the plight of the undocumented Irish in America and indeed undocumented people from other countries.
And for working to ensure that a new generation of talented, hard-working Irish men and women can contribute to this great country. In this respect I warmly welcome the news that, on Monday, the House passed the E3 visa bill unanimously. We are grateful to all the Friends of Ireland, in Congress and in the Administration, who have supported this effort. We now look forward to seeing the bill being progressed in the Senate. I know we can count on your continued support to bring this process to a successful conclusion.
The co-chairs of the Friends of Ireland Caucus, Richie Neal and Pete King embody the bipartisan principles on which the Friends were founded four decades ago.
As you know, this year will be Pete’s last in office.
One of the Fighting Irish at Notre Dame, and later one of the legendary Fighting 69th, Pete has been a straight-talking fighter for peace and his actions helped change the course of history.
Pete, I believe that without all of your efforts Ireland’s peace process – one of the great achievements of US foreign policy – could not have been secured, and may not have endured. Thank you, sincerely from the bottom of my heart.
During the War of 1812, two British warships were captured by the USS Constitution, commanded by Captain Charles Stewart. Stewart ended his career as an admiral, and the most senior ranking officer in the US navy.
His Irish grandson was named after him, and became one of the greatest political leaders in my country’s history, and one of my personal heroes.
His name was Charles Stewart Parnell and 140 years ago he was invited to speak before the House of Representatives, becoming the first Irish political leader to do so.
Parnell’s vision for Ireland in the 19th century is finally being realised in the 21st. We are an independent, free and prosperous country, at peace at home, and with a place in the world.
So much of what we achieved is thanks to you, and so much of what we want to achieve depends on that same friendship.
With that in mind.
In that spirit.
Lá Fhéile Phádraig daoibh.
Happy St Patrick’s Day.