TAOISEACH KENNY: Good evening and welcome. Our Secretary of State has got a meeting at 5:30 so we'll keep this fairly brief. Firstly I'd like to welcome the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here to Government Buildings and thank her for attending at the OSCE meeting for the engagement that she's had during the course of the day. I might say that as First Lady, as Senator, and as Secretary of State, she has shown an enormous sense of belief and conviction in politics and in the work that she has done, not only in the United States, not only in Ireland, in Northern Ireland in particular, but now on a global stage as Secretary of State for the most powerful nation in the world. In that sense, we thank you very much, and your husband, for all of the work that you've done.
I've had a wide-ranging discussion with the Secretary of State in which we covered issues about the Irish economy, our relationship with Europe, our forthcoming presidency, the opportunity to begin discussions with the United States on the (inaudible) of a free trade between Europe and the U.S. I've also spoken to the Secretary in regard to her visits in Northern Ireland, her prompt condemnation of the murder of David Black recently, and of her continued interest in keeping peace, the peace coordination, the forming of a peace coordination, very much a central issue because of the fragility of a number of communities on either side of the peace divide. And we discussed elements of that.
We also discussed the European issues, the situation facing the Eurozone, the European Union, the priorities for Ireland's presidency. We referred equally to issues that the Secretary of State has been involved in recently, thanked her for her efforts in coordination with Cairo and Egypt in bringing about the resolution to the recent difficulties between Palestine and Israel. I've spoken with a number of (inaudible) country issues in that region.
And as I say, we are very glad to have you here. We thank you for your contribution to this country, for the unfailing commitment that you and President Clinton have shown to Ireland and to its people. And we are extremely grateful to you for all those efforts, and we hope that you've had a pleasant visit and an enjoyable trip to Belfast tomorrow when you go there.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Taoiseach. And I just want to express my gratitude for your hospitality and also for your government's hosting of the OSCE meeting here. And congratulations as you assume the EU presidency and the responsibilities that go with that, and also congratulations on your election to the Human Rights Council, where we will be working together.
I'm always happy to be in the Republic of Ireland and to have a chance to see a lot of my friends, catch up on matters. And as the Taoiseach said, we covered a wide-ranging number of issues of importance to us both, as well as the global situation. And I want to applaud the Irish Government under your leadership for making some very tough decisions to shore up the Irish economy for the long term. The budget passed yesterday meets the terms of the Troika program. It will keep Ireland on the path back to competitiveness in the European and global economies. And it's been an extraordinary example of Irish resilience and determination, the way that you have met these challenges head-on. That's good news, of course, for you, but also for the European and global economy more broadly.
Ireland has been a critical leader and partner in the ongoing work toward reconciliation and peace building. And I'm looking forward to my visit to Belfast tomorrow to see for myself what the situation is.
And I want to thank you for, despite the difficult economic challenges you face, your continuing engagement in regional and global concerns. You've reaffirmed OSCE's core principles. You work tirelessly to promote peace, combat intolerance, defend universal human rights and dignity. And of course, you're a great partner with us as we work together on food security, improving nutrition for pregnant women and children, helping women have access to clean cookstoves, and in short, trying to demonstrate what our values really mean in practice.
I also am happy to report the U.S.-Ireland Research and Development Partnership has made progress to strengthen the ties between our countries in research and development, and the economy and technology. A delegation of American entrepreneurs visited Dublin and Belfast a few weeks ago to explore new investment opportunities in high-tech enterprises.
So in short, it's a pleasure, as always, being here, and I look forward to our continuing work together in the future.
TAOISEACH KENNY: Thank you, Secretary.
QUESTION: David Davenport of the Irish National Broadcasting. As the Taoiseach has said, there's a warm relationship, I think, between the Clintons and this country (inaudible) and you personally. You're stepping down soon. What are your career plans? (Laughter.) Do you rule out a tilt at the presidency four years down? (Laughter.) And what do you think of the suggestions in the media that Bill Clinton might be on the short list for U.S. Ambassador here?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, as to the first question, I'm right now too focused on what I'm doing to complete all the work we have ahead of us before I do step down. And I'm frankly looking forward to returning to living a life that enjoys a lot of simple pleasures and gives me time for family and friends and other pursuits. And I cannot comment on what President Obama might do in the second term -- obviously, it's his decision -- but I would think that my husband will be here many times in the future doing the work that he's been doing without having to have the title of ambassador.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, since we understand that you are to see Lakhdar Brahimi and Sergey Lavrov today, can you say what you think this three-person meeting can accomplish, whether it is an indication that the Russians have changed their calculation about Assad's staying power? And secondly on Syria, there are new reports that sarin gas has been weaponized. Is that true? And is it part of the reason that there's been new urgency from you and President Obama about Syrian chemical weapons this week?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Anne, obviously I'm looking forward to the meeting, which is supposed to start in 10 minutes, and I want to hear what the Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has to say to both Sergey Lavrov and myself. We have been trying hard to work with Russia to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition toward a post-Assad Syrian future. And we very much support what Lahkdar Brahimi is trying to do.
Events on the ground in Syria are accelerating, and we see that in many different ways. The pressure against the regime in and around Damascus seems to be increasing. We've made it very clear what our position is with respect to chemical weapons, and I think we will discuss that and many other aspects of what needs to be done in order to end the violence and begin that transition that I referred to.
So I'm looking forward to the meeting. I will obviously have more to say about it after we hold it.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible). You've been here many -- 12 -- times over the last 20-odd years, (inaudible). You've referred to the shoring up of public finances. What kind of message of hope do you think you could pass on to the Irish people about the tough economic constraints that we're going through at the moment?
And Taoiseach for you, as you know, (inaudible) always said all politics is noble (inaudible) domestic issue. Are you steadfast in your belief that the government is not going to change its mind on any (inaudible) in the budget, in particular (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me just quickly say that after years of economic turmoil, we are delighted to see Ireland on the rebound. And as I've said, the Taoiseach has taken a number of very tough, important steps that have placed Ireland on the right track. This has not been easy. I understand the real sacrifice and even suffering that many people have gone through because of the economic challenges, but the view from the United States is the resilience, the hard work, the determination of the Irish people getting up every day and getting the job done. Coming at it with a practical, can-do spirit, and an unwavering resolve to meet what lies ahead. The United States is confident in our economic partnership with Ireland. Our foreign direct investment here already tops $191 billion, which is more than U.S. companies have invested in Brazil, Russia, India, and China combined.
So don't just take my word for it -- take our investors' actions and look at what they're doing, which is understanding that investing in Ireland is a good bet for the future. More than 600 U.S. subsidiaries in Ireland employ more than a hundred thousand people, and these are in good jobs in electronics manufacturing, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, et cetera. And by comparison, Irish companies employ 80,000 people. So we know that these are tough times.
We've had some of that ourselves. We have a different economic situation because of our currency and the like, and we've had to do some very difficult things. But our economy is turning around and so is the Irish economy. But it's going to take some more time, and we want to continue to see our economic relationship grow.
TAOISEACH KENNY: I'd like to thank the Secretary of State for her message of hope to the Irish people. I think this is something that the -- that as First Lady and as senator and now as Secretary of State, both you and your husband have always given that clear message of courage and belief and conviction to the Irish people, and I thank you for that.
At the budget yesterday, was -- and it will be the toughest of this Administration's lifetime -- none of the choices were easy, all of them were unpalatable. When you recall budgets of the 90s, which could have been done in 15 minutes, the question was not how much you could take in but how much you could give out. And that's what landed us in the unprecedented economic situation that we find ourselves in.
Budget's gone through yesterday, fear not, and it's the intention of the government to carry through with the budget as put through the dole yesterday. I might just say in conclusion that Ambassador Dan Rooney is not here. As you are aware, his daughter died in the United States, and I'd like to pay a tribute to him, to his wife, and to their staff for their very generous commitment to this country and to express our sympathy and our condolences to him, his wife, and family, on their very sad loss.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: And finally, Jill.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, thank you -- make it brief here -- concerning Ambassador Rice. There has been a lot of criticism, a lot of attack, coming from some Republicans in Congress who accuse her of not having the necessary qualities that a Secretary, a prospective Secretary of State, should have. Do you feel that this criticism -- or how deeply do you feel that this criticism has wounded her? And should she be nominated and it turns into a protracted battle in the Senate, how long would you be willing to stay on?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Jill, let me repeat what I have said many times publicly and privately. Susan Rice has done a great job as our UN Ambassador. She has been a stalwart colleague in a lot of the tough decisions that we've had to make, and certainly with respect to defending our national interests and national security at the United Nations. And she's played an important role in what we've been able to accomplish in the last four years. I worked very closely with her in shaping the sanctions on North Korea and Iran, and she has been on the go for us in every way that was required.
And it's important to remember what Susan said was based on the information that had been given to every senior official in our Administration. And she made very clear in her appearances that the information was subject to change as more facts were gathered and analyzed by the intelligence community. And look, as is often the case, our understanding evolved over time, and we've done our best to keep the American people and the Congress informed. That was her goal, that was her mission, and she should not be criticized for doing exactly that.
And this decision about who succeeds me is totally up to the President, and of course, I will support whatever he decides. And I've told him that I will certainly do what I can to help to expedite a transition, but I'm not going to make any comment beyond that.
Thank you all.