Category: Archive

McAleese, in Chicago, still upbeat on North

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

“It’s a bit untidy now, but it still holds” she said of the implementation of the Good Friday agreement. The president said she believes the obstacles to restarting the power-sharing government at Stormont are surmountable.
“Life doesn’t always adhere to those deadlines,” McAleese told the group of prominent business leaders on her six-day visit to the United States, in a reference to the Irish and British governments’ spring timetable for the peace process.
“One would wish it would be up and running, and I have strong faith it will,” she said of the North’s Assembly.
The peace process, however, was not the primary purpose of her visit. On her previous trips to the U.S. as Irish head of state, McAleese emphasized the Celtic Tiger’s economic strength, at times lauding those Irish businesses that were outstripping Americans ones in software production. Her speeches are tempered now that there’s a downturn, and the Tiger is meowing a bit more than roaring, but she still mentions how the Irish economy benefited from its well-timed entry into the globalized markets.
And it was only fitting that it was on her visit to the Midwest, where prosperity was generated more with livestock trading and the conservative bond market, McAleese reminded American businesses that the Irish economy’s mainstay has not always been computer technologies.
“Even in economic downturns, people have to eat,” the president said, noting that the Irish Food Board’s representative in the United States is based in Chicago.
And it is the dairy and agricultural entities that “are doing very well,” she added at a time when foreign investment in Ireland has seen an almost $20 billion drop and the annual economic growth rate is projected to be four to five percent compared to the nine percent plus that Ireland experienced up to 2001.
On Tuesday morning, McAleese addressed reporters’ questions about her visit. When asked whether there were any residual concerns in the American business community over the demonstrations in Ireland against the U.S.-led war in Iraq, McAleese said the Americans she spoke to in Chicago had only the economy on their minds.
“That’s seems to be where people are at here, big time — the economy. The war in Iraq seems to be over in people’s minds and now it’s down to jobs,” she said.
With less than two years to go before the end of her term, McAleese said she was as yet undecided on whether to pursue a second term as president. Judge Neil Hartigan described her as one of the most gifted speakers he had ever listened to and many in the Irish American community concur.
“I love the job,” McAleese said. “I relish being the president of an Ireland that has so much good news to tell about itself and to tell the world. A lot of Irish presidents didn’t have that privilege. I’m very conscious that it is a privilege.”
The president said she and her husband, Dr. Martin McAleese, who is traveling with her on this visit, would make a decision at the end of 2003 on a possible second term.

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