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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Remarks of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Northern Ireland Assembly

"We meet at an important time in the history of Northern Ireland. In the 11 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, you have traveled a long way together on the road to peace. Groups have laid down their weapons. Empty streets are now bustling with activity. And here, in this chamber, men and women who were once sworn enemies work side by side to secure the achievements of recent years, and to deliver a stable, prosperous future for the people you represent.

These accomplishments are remarkable, and a credit to you and to all those who have worked for peace, not only the leaders here at Stormont, but also Westminster and Leinster House. But most importantly, to the thousands of ordinary citizens, mothers and fathers, whose determination to end the Troubles made them fervent activists for peace.

At this time, we can recognize you have traveled a great distance. But you do not need me to tell you that your journey is not yet over. The promise of the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement is not yet fully realized. And Northern Ireland is now facing a new challenge with the global economic downturn, which threatens some of the gains that you have made in the past decade.

The value of peace is not only the absence of violence. It is also the presence of new opportunities for investment and jobs, for education and health care, and political participation. So it is critical, in this moment of economic turmoil, to protect the progress you have already achieved, and to build upon it, to ensure that your people continue to enjoy the rewards of peace, and to embrace it for the long term.

Since this assembly was restored two-and-a-half years ago, this devolution has enabled you to work together to enact sensible, necessary reforms on everything from health to housing to environmental safety. No one ever said it was going to be easy. Of course it is difficult. It is the nature of democracy. It is not easy in any legislature, as I know from experience, under the best of circumstances. But in these circumstances, the work you have done is all the more extraordinary.

So, please know that the Obama administration and the United States is committed to helping you finish your journey to put far behind you the long years of division and conflict, to build confidence and trust across all communities and political parties, and to honor the hopes and sacrifices of your people by making whole and permanent Northern Ireland's emerging peace.

Now, we know what it means to be supportive. And we also know what it means to meddle. And I want to be clear that when it comes to the important issue of devolution, of policing and justice, that is a decision for this assembly to make. But as a true friend -- and I thank the Speaker for his kind comments -- my hope is that you will achieve what you have set out to do, to complete the process of devolution. And I am confident that, together, you can go forward and harness the exciting, human, and economic potential that Northern Ireland has to offer.

I know there has been considerable effort in recent weeks to address concerns, and work toward a resolution during this important period. There have been many moments in Northern Ireland's peace journey when progress seemed difficult, when every route forward was blocked, and there seemed to be nowhere to go. But you have always found a way to do what you believed was right for the people of Northern Ireland. As Scripture urges us, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

And today, Northern Ireland stands as an example to the world of how even the staunchest adversaries can overcome differences to work together for the common and greater good. So, I encourage you to move forward now with that same spirit of unstoppable grit and resolve. And I pledge that the United States will be behind you all the way, as you work toward peace and stability that lasts."

For full text, click here.

Photo: Hillary Clinton with Northern Ireland Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness

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