In her first visit to Philadelphia since she took the Irish presidency, Mary McAleese mapped out the importance of Ireland’s economic success in Europe and touched on the future of the Northern Ireland peace process.
Speaking at the World Affairs Council recently, the president said Ireland’s economic success would benefit further from the growing cooperation between the North and South, a spin-off from the Good Friday agreement.
"This emerging Ireland is neither the nostalgic Ireland of the ‘Quiet Man’ nor the tragic homeland overshadowed by the gunman," the president said in her prepared speech.
As the fastest-growing economy in Europe and the world’s largest exporter of software in the world, Ireland remains an important partner with the United States in the world economy, McAleese said.
"The United States is today Ireland’s largest source of inward investment and that relationship is an integral part of our current success story and our future," she said.
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But McAleese also pointed to Ireland’s success in defining itself as a significant player in the European Union. In the latest opinion polls, she said, Ireland had shown itself as the most enthusiastically pro-European of all the member states.
It is an attitude members of Ireland’s younger generation have embraced eagerly as illustrative of their modern lives.
"Today’s generation carry with them many strings to their bows, parallel-track identities, Irish, European, Irish speaking, English speaking, fluent in French or German or Italian or Spanish, at home in Boston, or Brussels, the World Wide Web or Waterford," McAleese said.
Talking earlier to the Philadelphia-based Federation of Irish American Societies, the president said Northern Ireland’s struggling peace process will "of necessity take time and effort," before trust and confidence have been restored.
"It is, therefore, perhaps not entirely surprising that there have been setbacks in the efforts to give full effect to the agreement," she said.