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Remarks With Ireland Prime Minister Brian Cowen


Location: Dublin, Ireland

MINISTER COWEN: We're delighted to be here to welcome Secretary Clinton to (inaudible) of Ireland. And as recently as last March, we met together to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the White House with President Obama. And I'm delighted she's taken time to visit us here today. I also would like to take this opportunity to recognize and congratulate President Obama on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Secretary Clinton has been fundamental, and has been fundamental at the new U.S. Administration's commitment and massive efforts to build a better world to tackle global problems in a cooperative, multilateral framework. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize is an early and truly well deserved recognition of those efforts.

The fruits of Secretary Clinton's efforts are already clear and progress on issues that are impacting the global economic crisis, on nuclear disarmament, on climate change, on poverty and disease in the developing world, and on relations between the United States and the European Union and major powers such as Russian and China. That international multilateral approach is, of course, a cornerstone of our own Irish foreign policy. The recent overwhelming verdict of the people and our relationship with the European Union and the Liston Treaty referendum serves to reaffirm that point. It sent a clear signal around the world about Ireland sees herself as a modern outward-looking partner, active in the international community.

Today, the minister of foreign affairs and I look forward to discussing a range of international issues, as well as the close bilateral relationship between Ireland and the United States with the Secretary of State. We will also take the opportunity to review progress in Northern Ireland, a place transformed in no small part due to the efforts of the Clinton Administration and with Secretary Clinton herself in a crucial period at the start of the peace process.

I'm optimistic that we will see definitive progress on the issue of devolution of (inaudible) and justice in the coming days. That will, in turn, lay the platform for a concentration of all of our efforts on the economic and social issues that matter most to the people, including our joint investment in building an all-island economy as an essential component of a common future and an economic recovery for our people both north and south.

I know that Hillary Clinton will continue to work closely with us in support of the peace process and indeed she has found great inspiration from her work here as she works for peace elsewhere in the world.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Taoiseach, thank you so much. And it's wonderful to be back here in Dublin. I wish to congratulate your government on the resounding vote in the Lisbon treaty referendum, and also to thank you for the kind words about President Obama. I know our commitment to working with like-minded friends, such as Ireland, means that we'll be seeing a lot of each other and consulting often about what more we can do to provide the conditions for peace, security, and prosperity.

I just came, of course, from a day yesterday in Geneva where the hard work of diplomacy and multilateral engagement was on display to try to work on another difficult conflict, but I think that's what diplomacy and international relations calls for today. But there is no greater joy than to come back to Ireland to be in Dublin today. I said to Brian, I wish we could just sort of take a day off, wander around this beautiful park and enjoy some of the hospitality that I have experienced before. Bill and I feel such a special connection to Ireland and, of course, we are not alone -- millions of Americans feel the same.

But it's not only ties of family and culture and history and heritage. It is because we have built a strong partnership. Our diplomats and our aid workers collaborate together to resolve conflicts, fight hunger, poverty and disease, our businesses invest in trade to create new jobs and wider prosperity, education, innovation, and productivity have made Ireland a great place to do business, and Americans have leapt at the opportunity. At the end of last year, U.S. foreign direct investment in Ireland ran into the tens of billions of dollars per year.

Now, we know that we've had some challenging economic times. That has been apparent, both here in Ireland, the United States, and really around the globe. As we grapple with this global economic downturn, we are aware of the difficulties that people are suffering, people who are losing jobs, people who are unable to pursue their dreams. But Ireland has moved aggressively to stabilize its financial markets, to jumpstart its economy. And we will continue to work with our Irish friends because they understand that we live in an interconnected and interdependent world. It has been a hallmark of Ireland's history. The Irish may have gone into the world as exiles and immigrants, but they also (inaudible) poets and speechmakers as entrepreneurs and innovators, and we see that still today.

I want to thank the Government of Ireland for your pledge to commit 20 percent of your foreign assistance by 2012 to eradicating hunger around the world, with the aim of cutting that number of hungry in half by 2015. As a people whose history is scarred by famine, the Irish understand that this is an extraordinary global challenge that requires a commitment of that measure.

I was very pleased that Minister Power participated in our hunger summit at the UN during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Ireland, truly does, punch above its weight on the big issues of the day from climate change to nonproliferation. Irish peacekeepers have saved lives and provided crucial stability in troubled lands from Kosovo to Liberia to East Timor. And we are grateful for their service and their sacrifice.

Here in Phoenix Park, whose name symbolizes renewal, I am absolutely in accord with former President Kennedy, that Irish future is as promising as your past is proud. And it is a future that we will share together. I will leave here to go to Belfast to continue work that our countries have done together, that I have been very committed to for a number of years, in which the people of the north, as well as the entire island, have made so much progress on together.

So thank you again, for welcoming me here.

QUESTION: Secretary of State, Tommy Garlan from RTE. The name Clinton is synonymous with Ireland's peace speech process. Today, we have one parliamentary group saying this war is over, but at the same time, political relationships in Northern Ireland power-sharing administration remains fragile. How would you characterize the state of Ireland's peace process today?

MINISTER COWEN: Well, our peace process is known to many parts of the world where there is conflict of the great example of what can be achieved through (inaudible) determination, through working not only in terms of the political resolution of conflict, but seeing the support that economic investment and the economic dividend that (inaudible) peace can bring to afflicted communities who have been affected by this conflict for over three decades. And we are very clearly of the view that we move now towards the devolution of (inaudible) and injustice in Northern Ireland is a critical factor in completing the process that (inaudible) agreement and (inaudible) agreement have set out in great detail. And culminating in that process will be the means by which decisions can be taken locally in these matters as they are in other matters. And that itself provides the basis for (inaudible) reconciliation (inaudible).

And the challenge to all of who are working in the peace process is to ensure that both that effort and the spirit of using agreements (inaudible) by which we can resolve our problem.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I agree that the step of devolution for policing and justice is an absolutely essential milestone. Clearly, there are questions and some apprehensions, but I believe that due to the concerted effort of the British Government, the Irish Government, the support of friends like us in the United States, that the parties understand that this is a step they must take together.

I will have the distinct honor of speaking at Stormont tomorrow. I will certainly provide as much encouragement and support as I can. We have appointed another economic envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, who is here with me. He is already hard at work. So, as the Taoiseach said, there are so many dividends for peace, and they've already been evidenced in Northern Ireland, but there's more to come. Yet it will take the leaders of both communities working together, not only to continue the devolution, but as the Taoiseach said, then to make day-to-day governing a reality. And I'm confident that that is within reach.

QUESTION: Mark Landler of The New York Times. A question for you on the economic situation. Few countries in the world were as hit by the bursting of the housing bubble as Ireland, and it was a crisis that originated in the United States. I know the G-20 has held a number of meetings to talk about new arrangements for the global economic structure. Are you satisfied, as a small country that is extremely vulnerable, that you'll be protected and that this type of thing won't happen again.

And Madame Secretary, one follow-up to RD question: What, in concrete terms, can you offer the Northern Irish beyond moral support? You alluded to investment. I wonder whether you'd give us a few more details. And secondly, on the economic question, what can you tell the Taoiseach about his country which has suffered so much, and what the U.S. can do?

MINISTER COWEN: Well, I'd say, first of all, as members of the European Union, we're very supportive of the whole effort that is being made going across the globe (inaudible) the global financial system to make sure it's regulatory regime is efficient to meet the financial requirements of stability in the future. And that's come across very clearly in how the European Union has been working through the G-20 to bring that about. There is no doubt in our minds that, from an Irish point of view, internal economic growth and worldwide is critical to an export-led economy like ours. Where there is (inaudible) and more demand for our growth and services, the backwash economically of our economy has been quite severe, as you say.

The government here, as well, is taking corrective action. (Inaudible) five percent of GNP in terms of the adjustment this year, and next year we are committed to further correct -- stabilize our public finances. We have a high debt currently, but we also have a low debt in overall (inaudible). So that head room is available to us now to make the adjustments in coming years. And we have (inaudible) to do that by the end of 2013. We have met these sort of challenges before in this country. And I will be working with everyone now in the coming weeks to make sure that a maximum effort is brought about whereby you will take further policy initiatives in our domestic policy as to (inaudible) budget that meets the requirements of (inaudible).

But I emphasize again, that we (inaudible) economic growth will effect the (inaudible) probably more quickly here. And as you know, we are about to complete the enactment of our asset (inaudible) legislation, and that will provide more (inaudible) on (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: And of course, the Obama Administration took immediate action upon the President taking office last January. Obviously, the situation, as it stood when we came into office, was very challenging and the crisis could have gone even deeper with greater and longer lasting costs for not just the United States but for the world economy and countries like Ireland. We're beginning to see some positive signs, but we're very conscious of the fact that the United States must right its own economic boat, in order to lead the global recovery. And I don't think a day goes by that this Administration, particularly the President and the economic team, are not focused on what more we can do.

So the responsibility that our country and our government has assumed is one that we will continue to see through. It is certainly a concern to us that good friends, like Ireland, have suffered the negative growth that the Taoiseach just referred to, but it is also very heartening to see the positive steps that this government has taken to begin to deal with the underlying economic challenges.

With respect to Northern Ireland, there are really three points. I mean, one, yes, it is a moral issue. As the Taoiseach said, many people who are despairing over the prospects of peace look to Northern Ireland. They think to themselves that if it could be done there, then perhaps we, too, have a chance to try to cross that border between conflict and peace and chart a different future for ourselves and our children. And it's been an example, and it certainly is an encouragement to me -- I'm one of those who refer to it often in conversations with those engaged in other conflicts.

Secondly, I think the day-to-day realities of peace have been not only good for the people of Northern Ireland, but they have recognized that it makes a difference, if your husband goes off to work in the morning, you don't have to worry about whether he comes home at night. Or if your son goes off to the pub at night, you don't have to worry whether he's going to make it back. There is a sense of relief at the end of the troubles and a commitment to a different way forward. That doesn't mean it's been easy or that it will be easy. This is -- like so many other deeply held conflicts that have to be worked at and constantly moved toward a different outcome.

But that brings me to the third point, which is that the United States has been committed in a very active way since 1993. We remain committed. It has been bipartisan. It has now spanned three administrations. And we are going to continue to work with the parties, with the Irish and the British governments, and the appointment of a special economic envoy is a very tangible signal that we want to invest in the peace dividends that will come with the final devolution of power and authority and the full acceptance of responsibility by the people of Northern Ireland themselves. So we -- we're very hopeful and we're going to keep committed until we see the fruits of all of this extraordinary hard work by so many who really yearn for a durable, lasting peace.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) INN radio news. (Inaudible) about 20 -- 25 years on from one of the biggest outflows of immigrants from this country to this United States, I think about 50,000 or so undocumented in the United States, and they've reached the stage where (inaudible) they can't came home for funerals and so on. Can I ask you, what is the current status of the Irish lobbying of the United States Government in dealing, first of all, with the un-document -- there's no documented (inaudible) immigrants of the future?

MINISTER COWEN: I think it's important to point out that we continue to engage with the Hill, Congress, with the Administration and (inaudible) to this matter. This is a very difficult and sensitive issue and (inaudible) within the United States itself, and we respect and understand that. So therefore, the Irish issue must be dealt with that broader context. And we are, of course, in constant contact through our ambassador and through our staff, that in the United States and New York and Boston and Chicago as well as in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and other parts of the United States, with those groups who are seeking to find a solution here. But that's is something, as I said, that we need to work on. It is a priority for our government. But it is something that we have to address in the context of the wider (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can attest that the lobbying is very effective. It is well organized. As a senator from New York, I was deeply involved in the comprehensive immigration reform on behalf of so many -- but I must say that the lobby for immigration reform from the Irish community was always persistent and usually a good time as well as all of the serious work. I can't think of a rally I went to that there wasn't a lot of singing as well as speechmaking.

But the Taoiseach is right. I mean, this is an issue that we have to deal with in the overall need for comprehensive immigration reform, which we are hoping to do. The President has made that very clear.

QUESTION: Hi. Janine Zacharia from Bloomberg News. Taoiseach, Ireland has taken two detainees from Guantanamo Bay, how is the resettlement going? And do you believe European colleagues should assist President Obama with the closure of the facility by taking some of those detainees?

Madame Secretary, the United States faces problems in finding places, especially for a hundred Yemenis at the facility. The Saudis are not willing to accept them. What is the status of those negotiations? Thank you.

MINISTER COWEN: Yes, well, obviously our government has indicated, as I did, when I met President Obama on St. Patrick's Day, we are obviously prepared to take some of the detainees as agreed and we are proceeding with that. We've had some experience in this area before with respect to the Palestinian personnel on a number of occasions. So our government is capable of arranging (inaudible) takes place. (Inaudible) being pursued (inaudible). We're happy to do so in an effort to assist a friend in dealing with an issue which we very much welcome the fact that the present administration (inaudible) in this area is to close Guantanamo in due course.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And we're very grateful to Taoiseach, to the government and to the people of Ireland for accepting the detainees. Obviously, we have worked closely with the Irish Government to effectuate this transfer. And we're not only appreciative, but quite admiring of the approach that this government has taken. We are working every day to find placements for those detainees who can be appropriately transferred, as the two coming here have been, but we are also well aware that it will be difficult with certain populations. And we're looking at a variety of options. There are three categories of detainees. There are those who are going to be tried for crimes that we believe they've committed and we believe that we can put the evidence forward without, in any way, endangering national security or sources and methods of intelligence.

We also believe that there are some who cannot be tried and cannot be freed, and we are seeking a different placement for them. You know the debate back home about where they will go, under what circumstances. And then there are those who we believe can be appropriately and safely transferred, and we've been very pleased at the response that we've gotten from around the world. And we're going to continue to work out that important task.

MINISTER COWEN: Thank you very much.

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