BaileNuachtAithisc an Taoisigh

Remarks by Taoiseach at Statuary Hall, US Capitol, Wednesday 18 May 2016


Remarks by Taoiseach at Statuary Hall, US Capitol,
Wednesday 18 May 2016

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to address you here in this most historic hall in this magnificent building which stands as an extraordinary beacon of democracy, not just in this country but all around the globe.
I want to thank in particular the members from both sides of the aisle in both Houses of Congress who have joined with us this evening. Your ongoing support and friendship is one of the great cornerstones of the unique relationship between Ireland and the United States.
I want to acknowledge the many members of the ‘Friends of Ireland’ so ably led by Congressmen King and Neal- it was a great pleasure to welcome them along with Congressmen Donovan, Katko, Higgins and Fitzpatrick as well as Senator Markey to Dublin in March.
Their presence representing this Congress was a wonderful symbol of the deep ties that have linked this assembly and Ireland from the earliest days of your republic to the establishment of our own.
I am very proud to be here representing Ireland’s new Partnership Government, which took office just over a week ago. We have a clear ambition as a Government - to combine all our talents to build a strong economy and deliver a fair society for communities throughout Ireland.
Our partnership with the United States will continue to be a cornerstone of peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland.
Here, as we look around Statuary Hall, we have evidence of the deep links that go back to the days of the ‘Founding Fathers’ all around us - Charles Carroll representing Maryland whose grandfather came from Offaly and was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence.
He is in good company: Senator Shields representing Illinois was born in Tyrone in 1810. President Reagan whose forefathers came from Tipperary. John McLoughlin, the ‘Father of Oregon’ whose grandfather left Donegal in the early 18th century and President Andrew Jackson whose parents came from Co Antrim, to mention just a few.
When President Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963 he was accompanied by Congressman Eddie Boland of Springfield Massachusetts- a predecessor of Richie Neal’s in fact.
During the President’s historic visit he asked Congressman Boland to stand up and be acknowledged, saying that he was there representing the 85 Members of the House who were of Irish descent.
Now as you all know this country has changed greatly since 1963, as has Ireland, but I am pleased to say that there are still at least 85 members of the House of Irish descent so we are still holding our own as well as being well represented in the Senate.
Your ongoing affection for and interest in Ireland, and that of your many predecessors, played a key role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
We will always hold in the highest regard those who did so much in the cause of a lasting and just peace, great figures like Speaker Tip O’Neill, as well as Senators Ted Kennedy, Pat Moynihan and George Mitchell.
The leaders of the 1916 Rising were of course heavily influenced by the United States, and many had spent time in the United States.
The very language used in the ‘Proclamation of the Irish Republic’ drew heavily on your own ‘Declaration of Independence’; and made explicit reference to our Diaspora in the famous phrase “our exiled children in America”.
It is therefore fitting that so many events, large and small, to mark this anniversary have taken place across this country, shaped and led by the many descendants of those exiled sons and daughters of Ireland.
This evening’s event and the tree planting on the grounds of the Capitol are undoubtedly two of the highlights of this commemorative programme.
This has been a very short visit to Washington DC but I want to reiterate my deep appreciation for the warmth of the welcome here this evening.
As you know the celebrations will continue with ‘Ireland 100’, a three week festival at the Kennedy Center which I had the great pleasure of officially opening last night alongside another great Irish American, Vice president Joe Biden.
The Festival will showcase the best of Irish culture through music, dance, theatre, literature and so much more and I do hope you will be able to attend some of the performances over the next weeks.
Go raibh maith agat.