Pelosi Remarks at Address to the Irish Parliament
Dublin – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered an address in the Irish House chamber to Members and former Members of the Irish Parliament, in an event marking the centennial of the establishment of the Dáil Éireann, the Irish lower House of Parliament. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President. Members of this very distinguished, crucial body at this crucial time – is that the appellation you gave, Mr. Speaker?
It is my great honor, my great honor, to address you in this storied institution in this 100th year of its founding.
Thank you for your invitation to join in the festivities.
On behalf of the American people, it is my privilege to deliver the well-wishes of our nation as you mark this extraordinary century – and to extend congratulations to the Dáil from the Congress of the United States.
I am deeply honored to have the privilege, as Speaker, to address you today. And, I am also very honored to have so many of our colleagues with us today.
The Dáil Éireann is the people’s house – same as the United States House of Representatives.
Here, in Leinster House, the voices of the people are heard, and their will is heeded.
When President Kennedy – the first American President to visit Ireland while in office – addressed you all, he declared that ‘our two nations have been divided by distance, but have been united by history.’
I am proud to be here with a distinguished delegation of leading Members of the U.S. Congress to celebrate that shared history President Kennedy referenced, and to strengthen the enduring bonds of friendship between our two nations.
Our delegation represents every corner of America, from sea to shining sea—led by Chairman Richie Neal of Massachusetts, Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, and Co-Chair of the Congressional Friends of Ireland.
Richie will be delivering the Tip O’Neill, John Hume lecture at Ulster University where he will be awarded an honorary degree. Richie Neal, our honorable Chairman.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, a real fighter for Ireland in the Congress of the United States.
John Larson of Connecticut is here.
Does their applause come out of my time?
Because you – Brian Higgins of New York, a scholar on Ireland who is –
Brian is writing a book on Michael Collins and, as a New Yorker, he wanted me to remind that the Fighting 69th flag that President Kennedy brought here when he came as President really is a product of New York. The New Yorkers are very proud of that.
Joe Courtney of Connecticut.
Suzan DelBene of Washington State
Dan Kildee of Michigan.
Steven Horsford – a Freshman Member of our delegation from Nevada
Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania — the only Member of Congress with a parent, his father, born in Ireland.
We have traveled during Holy Week – a Holy Week tinged with sadness, with the tragic fire in one of the greatest jewels of faith, history and civilization: Notre Dame de Paris.
We pray and extend our gratitude to the brave firefighters who controlled the damage, as much as it was, and were able to save lives and many of the wonders of that cathedral.
While we are here, we are deeply honored by the extraordinary welcome we have received: from our special meetings with Taoiseach, to the warm greeting of Tánaiste, to the beautiful presentation of the sweep of Irish history and the vitality of Irish culture that we enjoyed last night at the GPO and to the invitation to Dublin Castle tonight.
Thank you for taking the lead on this magnificent welcome to Ireland: a beautiful and magical land, but you know that.
It is also a personal honor for me to be here today. While my husband and I – my husband, Paul, who is here – and I do not have Irish grandparents, we do take pride in having Irish grandchildren: Liam, Sean and Ryan Kenneally.
[Laughter and applause]
They were baptized at Kilquade Church in County Wicklow, the same Church where their grandfather was then buried from, and my son-in-law, Michael Kenneally, is with us somewhere here – Michael. And they always, that whole family, remind us of the exuberant spirit of the Irish people.
For a generation, our legislatures and leaders have had the opportunity to celebrate our friendship at the Friends of Ireland Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol, held during the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day.
It was started by Tim O’Neill – Speaker Tip O’Neill – and President Ronald Reagan the first year. The second year, the Taoiseach became part of that celebration and that has been that way ever since.
When I offered the Taoiseach – after that luncheon, I offered the Taoiseach a tour by the Speaker of the House of the Capitol of the United States. The Taoiseach – who once served as a Congressional intern in D.C., as part of the Washington-Ireland Program for Service and Leadership – said, ‘Madam Speaker, I used to give that tour.’
So, we have many connections: personal, official, professionally and any way. So, today, I am honored to return the warm message of friendship that he brought on behalf of the Irish people.
It is also a message of appreciation in recognition of the role that the Irish played – the leadership role the Irish played to build and to strengthen America.
The Irish were soldiers in America’s first – in the war for independence. So strong were they, of such bravery, that a British officer lamented ‘We have lost America through the Irish.’
In America in the 19th century, Irish workers built our canals, ports and railroads. Irish bricklayers built our hospitals and schools.
I think many of them, when they left Ireland, heard the rumor that in America the streets were paved in gold. Little did they know that they would be paving those streets when they got to America.
The Irish served in Lincoln’s army to preserve the Union and to save our nation. I mentioned the flag of the fighting 69th Irish Brigade that President Kennedy brought when he came.
And the Sisters of Mercy came from Dublin to heal our sick and to teach generations of American children – and they still do.
Both our nations know the joy of independence. Both our countries endured the traumatic experience of civil war and the satisfaction of rebuilding our nations.
And it is in these mutual experiences that our nations affirm for each other – and to the world – our democratic values and commitment to freedom.
When Ireland proudly proclaimed its independence, our peoples stood together.
I take great pride in Jeannette Rankin – the first woman ever elected to the United States Congress; our American counterpart perhaps to your Countess de Markievicz.
Congresswoman Rankin introduced one of the first resolutions on Irish independence: a resolution calling on America to count Ireland ‘among those countries whose freedom and democracy we are fighting for.’
And when your Constitution came into effect, Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol – this has always been a universal value for us – sent a message of goodwill to express our ‘ardent congratulations on the birth of the State of Ireland.’
It is why African-Americans in their fight for equality, a half century ago, inspired the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland to fight for their dignity and for equal rights.
We inspired each other and that is why a young Michael Collins found inspiration for his vision of a new Ireland in the work of the poet laureate of American democracy, Walt Whitman. It is said, in fact, that Collins was known to have carried with him frequently a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
Indeed, Ireland is one of the youngest of nations with the oldest of civilizations. You are a land of perseverance: one with a rich and storied history of conquest and famine, tragedy and triumph, heartbreak and heroism. And you are a land of progress: whose people forged prosperity from poverty, internationalism from insularity and diversity from homogeneity.
From the crucible of deprivation and famine, Ireland has emerged as a confident and ascendant nation on the forefront of innovation in the modern, global economy.
Today, the Emerald Isle is fittingly a world leader in green technologies and the clean economy – even pioneering methods to harness the tides of the great seas that break along Ireland’s legendary coasts.
Your leadership continues to be essential in a world threatened by the climate crisis – recognizing that a future of prosperity depends on bold action for sustainability. But we know, both of us know Ireland and the United States must do better and we must do more, and we can do it together. It is a challenge that we must all meet together with the fierce urgency it demands.
This is a public health decision for clean air and clean water.
It is an economic decision for creating the green jobs of the future, in a way that will create opportunity and reduce income inequality in our society.
It is a security decision to keep us safe. We were in Stuttgart before we came here and the generals there told us that climate is a national security issue throughout the world in terms of the challenges that it creates.
And it is a moral decision, if you believe, as I do, that this is God’s creation, then we have a moral responsibly to be good stewards it. And, even if you don’t share that view, we all know that we have a moral responsibility to future generations to hand this planet over in a responsible way.
So, I hope that we can work together in a very special way because Ireland is big enough to be impactful; small enough to be agile; educated, entrepreneurial and showing the world smart growth. We can learn a lot from you.
As President Kennedy said, ‘The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God and our common vulnerability on this planet.’
The beauty of Irish innovation and Irish thinking has long stretched around the globe.
You probably know that there is a serious recognition that the Irish have a way with words. It’s been said by the Irish, matter of fact.
Ireland produced for the world some of the greatest writers of poetry and prose the English language has ever known.
William Butler Yeats would redefine poetry. James Joyce would redefine the novel. Samuel Beckett would redefine theater.
Seamus Heaney would win a Nobel Prize for his own lyricism, and introduce us – I love this one – to one of our oldest English texts – with his masterful translation of Beowulf.
Have you read that? It’s a masterful translation of Beowulf.
And in the modern times, another purveyor of the word from Ireland, Bono and U2 – one of Ireland’s most beloved exports – whose music and mission –
Oh, there you are!
I’m not finished. Whose music and mission of advocacy stirs the spirit of the world, while embracing the pride of their Irish home.
We learned so much at U2 concerts about what’s going on in Ireland.
We were delighted to see Bono in the galleries of the GPO, a picture of David Trimble and John Hume at a U2 concert in Belfast in 1998.
Bono is here with his wife Ali Hewson who is there. Thank you both for being here.
I take pride in saying I’m one of the Members of Congress who’s been to more U2 concerts than anyone. And now, he’s in the audience.
Thank you both, Ali and Bono, for being here. And give my regards to the rest of U2, to Edge and others.
Something I learned from my children, from Michael Kenneally and then my grandchildren, we all know I don’t usually intrude on the music of my children. That does not apply to U2.
Out of a past of inward struggles, the Irish Republic became a bold and impactful presence doing good around the world.
It’s a funny thing. Inside, outside. Perseverance, progress. Old civilization, innovative.
You were an early pioneer on nuclear nonproliferation – sponsoring a vital resolution at the U.N. in 1961 to oppose the spread of nuclear arms. Early leaders, visionaries.
You have continued to take the lead on peace, in the global peacekeeping and humanitarian missions that are filled with and led by Irish men and women.
And during our visit, we’ve heard excellent arguments – including some that I just said – on why Ireland should sit on the UN Security Council.
What do you think of that?
From the roots of heritage and history, a modern Ireland has blossomed.
What a powerful statement, that Ireland – steeped in tradition – would be the first nation in all the world to deliver ‘Yes’ to marriage equality for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
Not by a ruling in the courts, not by an act of the legislature, but an overwhelming vote of the Irish people themselves.
And further, the people of Ireland voted to affirm the reproductive rights of women.
Ireland shows the true strength of a nation with the confidence to open itself up to new ideas, new people and a new future. Indeed, Ireland truly is a nation with a century to be proud of.
Ireland’s story is one of hope, hope: how, with vision, courage and faith, we can build a brighter, stronger and fairer future for the next generation. And that is all of our responsibilities to make the future better for the next generation.
And this month, we mark the anniversary of one of the greatest achievements of that spirit of hope – and of the faith that a better future is possible: the signing of the Good Friday Accords in 1998 – ending centuries of conflict.
On that holy day, the world saw the dawn of a peace in Northern Ireland of which few had dared dream.
With the diplomatic leadership of President Bill Clinton – who sends you his regards when he found out we were coming – and Special Envoy and Senator George Mitchell;
With the courage of John Hume, who my family – Paul and I and our five children were honored to welcome to our home in San Francisco in the late 1980s. He told us that night quote, ‘As we bring down the walls in Belfast, we must also bring down the walls in our hearts if we’re going to have peace.’ We were happy to welcome him to our home.
And with the bravery of our late friend, Martin McGuinness, whom I was pleased to welcome to the House of Representatives as the top Democrat – when I was the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, which had control over the funding of the International Fund for Ireland.
So, Martin was a regular visitor.
So, home or House, Martin is beloved and is missed by many friends in Congress.
And with the hopes of the people of Northern Ireland and all of us in America, we witnessed the miracle of a new peace.
We treasure the Good Friday Accord – not only because of what it meant for Northern Ireland and for Ireland. That would be reason enough. We treasure the Good Friday Accord because it is not just a treaty. It is an ethic; a value; it is an article of faith for us; it is a beacon to the world.
We treasure the Good Friday Accord because of what it says is possible for the entire world – a reason to hope in every place that dreams, that reconciliation will be possible for them too.
It showed, as President Clinton said, what is possible when “you decide to give your children not your own yesterdays – but their own tomorrows.”
As my friend George Mitchell said after the signing, “Patriotism has to do with keeping the country in good heart; the community ordered by justice and mercy.” With good heart, guided by faith in justice and mercy, America will continue to stand with you in protecting the peace the Good Friday Accords have realized.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we must ensure that nothing happens in Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday accord – including, but not limited to the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
Let me be clear: if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday Accords, there will be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.
I say that hopefully that we would not have to face that reality. But I say that as a prediction.
As you face the challenges posed by Brexit, know that the United States Congress – Democrats and Republicans in the House and in the Senate – stand with you.
Especially now, as the first generation born into the hope of Good Friday – imagine since that night, Bono, David Trimble and John Hume at the U2 concert. Children born then, 21 years now, entering their adulthood knowing peace. We cannot jeopardize that.
We must not and will not allow that progress to be undermined.
For generations, Ireland has been the emerald thread in the fabric of American history and national life.
America is grateful for your partnership, the partnership we have together, glad to share in the joy of this centennial, and looking forward to another 100 years of Irish leadership in the world.
As the great Seamus Heaney wrote – and this I see all over Ireland, well all over Dublin so far:
‘…once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.’
Together, we can make hope and history rhyme once more.
Thank you for the honor of your friendship, thank you for the honor of addressing you this afternoon.
May God continue to bless America, may God continue to bless Ireland. May God continue to bless the partnership that we share.
Thank you so much for the opportunity.