Category: Archive

Bush invited to Belfast for trade conference

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

During their Oval Office visit with President George W Bush, both asked Bush to come to Belfast next year for a planned investment conference.
White House officials will not comment on whether the president will take up the offer, however, as the administration is at the moment setting up an exhaustive schedule of overseas trip for Bush starting in January.
Bush, who had limited travels outside the U.S. before taking the oath of office, and who has expressed little interest in international travel, will go to Africa, Europe and Asia in the final months of his administration.
“It is a matter for the President,” First Minister Paisley said when asked of the possibility of a presidential stopover in Belfast.
“I would like to think that the president and our own prime minister will come because they helped to sponsor this. But we have to go with what we have got knowing the political situation at home, knowing the political situation here I am sure that they have a lot of calls on their time but still it would be a tremendous boost if they came.”
“If they don’t come, and we make a tremendous success of it, then there will be no glory given to them,” jibbed Paisley in a joking manner.
Should Bush make the trip it would be his second visit to Northern Ireland; he last visited Hillsborough in April 2003.
It was also announced at a luncheon on Capitol Hill during the Paisley/McGuinness visit, that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been invited by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to give a speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress next year.
Following the announcement, Ahern said it would be an honor to deliver such a speech and his advisors said he will focus on the historic and economic ties between the U.S. and Ireland, and will also make a plea on behalf of the Irish currently residing illegally in the U.S.
No date has been fixed yet for the taoiseach’s address, but the hosts of the ministers’ luncheon, Congressmen Richard Neal (D-MA) and James Walsh (R-NY) welcomed the news from the speaker with enthusiasm.
Following the luncheon, the ministers and their delegation traversed the capitol to the Senate side where they were greeted by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and other senators.
Paisley and Kennedy have traded verbal barbs for years over the “troubles” but both men were conciliatory and respectful as they delivered a retrospective on their sometimes chilly relationship of former times.
“They’re giving an example to the rest of the world about the importance of political leadership in trying to reach across differences and hatreds and to try and find common ground,” Kennedy said.
Paisley said harsh words were the hallmark of a free society.
“In a democracy that is expected,” Paisley told reporters after the meeting. “We’re not in Iraq now, we’re in the United States of America.”
McGuinness praised the long-standing support from peace in Northern Ireland from both sides of the aisle in Washington.
“We thought it was important to come to express our gratitude to everybody here in the United States who contributed to the success off our process,” he said.
Senator Kennedy, meanwhile, sponsored a resolution passed in the Senate commemorating the trip of Rev. Paisley and his deputy, the first by the duo since resuming power sharing at Stormont.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) raced back to Washington from Iowa to see the two Northern Irish leaders and was greeted with an affectionate greeting at the historic and lavish Willard Hotel in downtown Washington.
Senator Clinton, who visited Ireland frequently as First Lady and personally interceded several times during her husband’s administration in the Northern Ireland peace process, indicated that there would be an open door in what would be a second Clinton White House for the North leaders. She was emphatic in using the “when” in outlining the open inviation.
The First Minister’s wife, the Baroness Eileen Paisley, stood beside her husband as he offered his hand to Senator Clinton.
Martin McGuinness, who first gained access to the White House during Senator Clinton’s time as a First Lady, startled some of the reporters during the group’s photo opportunity as he lavished a kiss with a audible smoosh to Mrs. Clinton’s cheek.
“It’s wonderful to see them both and to reminisce about times in the past,” he said of Sen. Clinton who is now battling in a close race in Iowa with rival Barack Obama.
“I’ve known Hillary Clinton a very, very long time and we have a lot to be thankful for, for her husband’s contribution, for her contribution,” Mr. McGuinness said.
The DUP leader said he appreciated what it meant for Clinton to come off the campaign trail to meet them.
“We are old hands at electioneering. We know what it takes,” Paisley said. “Here you are losing money today by talking to a Ballymena man and a Londonderry man.”
Senator Clinton said it was important for U.S. presidents not to remain on the foreign affairs sidelines when peace was the issue and she said U.S. involvement in the North should be used a blueprint in the efforts elsewhere to solve violent conflict.
“You can’t do that if you stand off or just point fingers or yell encouragement,” she said. “You have to be willing to get involved.”
Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs and special envoy to Northern Ireland, Paula Dobriansky, was asked about that in an exclusive interview with the Irish Echo at the end of the ministers’ meetings here.
Asked whether the U.S. should use their experience brokering the Northern Ireland peace agreement as a paradigm in other areas of conflict, Ms. Dobriansky pushed the role to leaders from Northern Ireland.
“I will say that they have very clearly a role, they have a presence to be shared. They have an experience that could be shared,” she said.
Ms. Dobriansky did say that the position of special envoy to Northern Ireland would remain during the rest of the Bush administration.
“Economics, issues of reconciliation, about how one addresses the troubles, and how one addresses the families, the victims, and how one goes forward,” were all still issues she explained.
“There is also the devolution of policing and I think it will be a very robust agenda in the year ahead.”
On the plight of Irish illegally in the U.S., Dobriansky said she looked forward to hearing what the taoiseach had to say during his speech next year to Congress.
“We were all very disappointed that the President’s comprehensive immigration bill failed to pass earlier this year because as you know that addressed this very issue.”
“However, this is an issue that continues to be debated across America and it is an issue that eventually must be addressed and its an issue that cuts across many communities.”
President Bush spoke glowingly of the success in Northern Ireland when the ministers made their last official stop of their tour.
“I congratulate you for seizing the moment and writing a hopeful chapter,” Bush said as he welcomed mcGuinness and Paisley in front of the cameras.
Mr. Bush added a new word to the infamous Bush lexicon in his opening remarks: “embettering.”
“These two men are — have dedicated themselves to embettering their — Northern Ireland through their courage and conviction and desire to put aside the past and focus on a hopeful future,” said Bush in the official transcript of the event put out by the White House.
The message was clear, however: Bush strongly supports peace and reconciliation between the two sides in Northern Ireland.
The cause of both certainly seemed to come to life with the successful visit of Paisley and McGuinness to the nation’s capital.

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