The following are excerpts from President Clinton’s address Thursday to the people of Armagh:
I am especially proud to be here with my wife at this important time. Yesterday, she spoke to the Vital Voices conference, hundreds of women from Northern Ireland working across all the lines that divide you for a better future.
Tonight, we are proud to be in a place that is a spiritual home to Irish people of both religious traditions and to millions of Irish-Americans as well.
Armagh is a city on a hill in every sense. Your faith and tolerance are making a new era of peace possible.
For yourselves and all the world, in every act of genuine reconciliation, you renew confidence that decency can triumph over hatred. You have inspired the rest of us to aim a little higher. I thank you and America thanks you for the precious gift you give us all — a gift of hope redeemed and faith restored. . . .
Here, a Briton, St. Patrick, devoted himself to the cause of Ireland and left a legacy of faith and compassion. Here the Book of Armagh preserved his gently message and the power of the Gospels.
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Today the two cathedrals that dominate the landscape stand for the idea that communion is better than destructive competition. Two proud traditions can exist side by side, bringing people closer to God and closer to each other.
I salute the leadership of Dr. Sean Brady and Dr. Robin Eames, the Archbishops of the Catholic and the Church of Ireland diocese, respectively. For years they have walked together when it counted.
I salute the Presbyterians and the Methodists who have worked hard for peace, indeed the men and women of all denominations.
Here there have been difficulties, as elsewhere, but the historic streets of this old town remind us of a fundamental fact about your community: Armagh literally encircles its many traditions in a single community.
That is what Northern Ireland must do if you want the future of peace and prosperity that belongs to the children in this crowd tonight.
As you look ahead, to be sure, in this peace process, there will be false steps and disappointments. The question is not if the peace will be challenged. You know it will. The question is how will you respond when it is challenged. . . .
The prime minister and Mrs. Blair and Hillary and I just came from Omagh. We met with the families whose innocent were slaughtered. We met with those who were terribly wounded. We saw children scarred, some of them for life, because of the madness — that if someone could just set off a big enough bomb, and kill enough Protestants and Catholics, kill enough men, women and children, including two pregnant women, kill enough people from Northern Ireland, Ireland and foreign countries — that maybe everybody would walk away from peace. But it backfired.
Out of the unimaginably horrible agony of Omagh, the people said it is high time somebody told these people that we are through with hate, through with war, through with destruction. It will not work anymore. . . .
We wanted to come here in person to thank you — to thank you for the peace, to thank you for strengthening the hand of everyone, everyone anywhere who is working to make the world a little better.
When I go now to other troubled places, I point to you as proof that peace is not an idle daydream, for your peace is real and it resonated around the world.
It echoes in the ears of people hungry for the end of strife in their own country.
Now when I meet the Palestinians and Isr’lis, I can say: Don’t tell me impossible; look at Northern Ireland.
When I meet Albanians and Serbs, I can say: Don’t tell me it’s impossible; look at Northern Ireland.
When I hear what the Indians and Pakistanis say about each other over their religious differences, I say: Don’t tell me you can’t work this out; look at Northern Ireland.
Centuries were put to bed and a new day has dawned.
Thank you for that gift to the world.
And never underestimate the impact you can have on the world. The great English poet and clergyman John Donne wrote those famous lines: "No man is an island. We are all a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
Tonight, we might even say in this interconnected world not even an island, not even a very unique island — not even Ireland — is fully an island.
On this island, Northern Ireland, obviously, is connected in ways to the republic as well as to England, Scotland and Wales. And in ways, the Republic of Ireland is connected to them also.
All of you on this island increasingly are connected to Europe and to the rest of the world as ideas and information and people fly across the globe at record speeds.
We are tied ever closer together. And we have obligations now that we not — that we cannot shirk: to stand for the cause of human dignity everywhere.
To continue John Donne’s beautiful metaphor — when the bells of Armagh toll, they ring out just to the Irish or Protestant and Catholic traditions. They ring out to people everywhere in the world who long for peace and freedom and dignity. That is your gift.
We Americans will do what we can to support the peace, to support economic projects, to support education projects. . . .
Three years ago, I pledged that if you chose peace, America would walk with you. You made the choice, and America will honor its pledge.