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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Releases > 2002

U.S.-Irish Business Summit

Richard N. Haass, Director, Policy Planning Staff
Remarks to the U.S. -Irish Business Summit
Washington, DC
September 6, 2002

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Welcome to the State Department. I welcome you here on behalf of the thousands of dedicated men and women who serve this country. I also welcome you on behalf of the Secretary of State. Secretary Powell would like to be here with you today, but instead is on his way back from Africa, where he represented the United States at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

I am delighted to be able to have "the last word" at the U.S.-Irish Business Summit. We have reached the point in the Summit where that old bromide applies, namely, that while everything has been said, not everyone had said it.

First, I would like to recognize the Herculean efforts that Susan Davis has put into organizing this conference. She has hands-down earned the film moniker of one of our most prominent Irish Americans -- John Wayne in "True Grit." Her determination has made this conference a reality.

I don't intend to run through endless lists of economic statistics on Ireland and Northern Ireland -- although it would be tough to avoid a few, given the strength and dynamism which mark the economic ties among the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United States. But before I get into the cornbeef and cabbage of my remarks -- thatís the meat and potatoes for anyone here besides me who is not at least part Irish -- let me just say that the list of participants and speakers involved over the past two days testifies to the importance of this gathering.

Tanaiste, Sir Reg -- your leadership in setting this agenda and working these issues underscores your commitment to the cross-border and cross-Atlantic relationships. We are also joined by many leading diplomats working on U.S.-Irish relations. Finally, we have enjoyed corporate participation at the highest levels. Thank you all.

This Summit has spotlighted the extensive bonds between the United States and all the people of Ireland. As has been mentioned already over the past two days, 45 million Americans declared themselves of Irish descent in the last U.S. census. I will confess, that on some days, particularly those in March, this number seems closer to 245 million. Another 45,000 Americans live in Ireland and 100,000 Americans visit Ireland each summer.

The strength of our ties was profoundly evident in the heartfelt response of the Irish -- north and south -- to the events of almost one year ago on September 11. I myself was in Dublin that terrible day. I was at a luncheon at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when we heard the news. America and Ireland grieved together over mutual losses and supported each other in our efforts -- which continue today -- to combat terrorism. September 11th demonstrated that the Irish and Americans are friends and family who can count on each other, both in times of prosperity and in times of adversity.

As the Presidentís point person for Northern Ireland, I would like to broaden out the summit theme of "Redefining Relationships" to include some thoughts from the political side. But, before I move to the political, let's take a quick look at the economic links that play such a vital role in the U.S.-Ireland-Northern Ireland relationships.

The Economics
Economics is often referred to as "the dismal science." But when it comes to Ireland, economics are anything but dismal. In the South, the Irish economy has roared for seven years. While the recent economic slowdown in the United States and European Union has tamed the Tiger a bit, growth in 2002 is still expected to be at least three percent. Per capita income in the Republic is now nearly $30,000 and unemployment is at 4.5% -- enviable numbers for any country. Ireland is poised to be one of the best performing economies in Europe in 2003 and beyond.

Northern Ireland also has much to boast about. Manufacturing output has increased by 26% in the past 5 years. Exports have doubled in the past 10 years. Unemployment is down to historically low levels of 5%. New foreign investment in Northern Ireland has led to 31,000 additional jobs. Tourism has increased four-fold since the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland with 1.6 million visitors just last year. Trade between the north and south is also growing, with two-way trade now approximating nearly $3 billion.

The economic success of Ireland -- north and south -- cannot be attributed to any one factor. In the Republic, EU membership, a pro-investment climate and policies, strong education, low corporate taxes, and sound fiscal/monetary policies all played a role. In both the northern and southern parts of the island, the economies have benefited from a return of many gifted citizens, who now realize that the pastures at home are as green and promising as anywhere else in the world.

It is undeniable that a huge factor in the successes of both parts of Ireland has been foreign investment, particularly by American firms. Since 1993, 25% of all new U.S. investment in the EU has gone to Ireland, which has only 1% of the EU's population. Today 585 American businesses operate in the Republic of Ireland, employing 94,000 people and representing an investment of $23 billion in the Irish economy. Over 100 U.S. companies operate in Northern Ireland, employing more than 22,000 workers. In the past 5 years, U.S. investment in Northern Ireland has totaled more than $1 billion. In Derry/Londonderry, the three largest private-sector employers are American firms.

The U.S.-Ireland economic relationship is clearly two-way. Irish investment in the U.S. has reached $18 billion and two-way trade is $21.5 billion -- more than that between the United States and India! And while American investment is good for Ireland, it is also good for the United States. When U.S. businesses invest in Ireland, they create new markets for U.S. products in Ireland and the EU. And these businesses create quality jobs back home.

The Political
When we turn our focus to Northern Ireland, there is another factor which explains the prosperity that is steadily gaining ground there -- and that is peace and stability.

The success enjoyed by business in Northern Ireland is a direct dividend of the dramatically improved political climate over the past decade. I don't think it's tough to understand. As my boss, Secretary Powell, has succinctly put it, "Capital is a coward."

Nothing will induce investors and venture capitalists to gamble with their money -- or their clients' money -- in a region where political instability and violence are the norm. Investment flows to countries and regions and neighborhoods that are secure and offer potential.

We have seen remarkable progress in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement was overwhelmingly approved in May 1998. A new police service -- one where each incoming class is now 50% Catholic -- is on the streets. The IRA has undertaken two acts of decommissioning and issued an apology earlier this summer to victims of its violence. And political parties have taken their seats in the committee rooms of Stormont to address the issues of the day: job creation, housing, training and education, transportation, health care, economic redevelopment. These are no small feats. When compared to the situation in Northern Ireland even 5 years ago, one gets a sense of how far the people of the region have come in putting decades of strife behind them.

I do not deny that the present and future hold significant challenges. As anyone who has followed the events in Belfast this summer can attest, violence persists in certain neighborhoods and communities. Many youths still look to paramilitary leaders as their role models. Homelessness is up 10% this year -- a statistic that is largely attributable to the number of people forced out of their homes by violence and intimidation. And Northern Ireland still is marked and marred by sectarianism. A survey released in June revealed how children at the age of 3 had already begun to hold symbols of the other tradition in contempt.

Everyone in Northern Ireland has a role to play in doing something about these challenges and in ensuring the future is better than the past. Business people here today have a special responsibility as beneficiaries of the peace dividend. The business community rallied at the doors of Stormont to show their support for peace in 1998. Their visible support is still needed today.

Political leaders, of course, will also help determine the future. In my role as friend and advisor to the peace process, I have encouraged the political leaders of Northern Ireland to take the credit they deserve for the achievements made since May 1998. I also look to them to help their constituents understand the changes that have come with peace -- to identify the possibilities, not just the obstacles. I ask political leaders to articulate a vision of the future where everyone living in Northern Ireland considers it to be home -- a stable place of opportunity where they can raise their families, establish their careers, and take pride in their work. Finally, I challenge political leaders through their words and actions to support the institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement and to underscore the message that there is no place for sectarianism, that there is no place for violence.

U.S. Role
The Summit itself demonstrates the American commitment to Ireland. We are pleased to support the British and Irish governments and the people and political and community leaders of Northern Ireland as they move forward. I will be travelling to Northern Ireland, Ireland, and London next week, in part to follow up on some of the themes explored at this Summit. I look forward to seeing a number of conference participants during my trip and to visiting one of the many successful U.S. firms operating in Northern Ireland.

I would like to say a few words about another area in which Americans could tangibly support a brighter future in Northern Ireland: by assisting the integrated education movement, which brings together in individual schools students, families, and staff from all communities. Integrated education is not a panacea for the problems facing Northern Ireland. But it is one way of securing a better future. By fostering friendships across community lines and puncturing sectarian stereotypes, integrated schools can help the next generation of people in Northern Ireland move beyond the past.

I have become a staunch supporter of integrated education in Northern Ireland. On my last trip, I visited the Oakgrove Integrated school in Londonderry/Derry and was immensely impressed by the commitment of the families from both the Protestant and Catholic communities to educating their children together from the earliest years. Families mortgaged their homes to get the start-up funds needed to have an integrated school in their neighborhood or town. These schools currently serve almost 5% of the school population in Northern Ireland, but those schools are oversubscribed and the demand for more places is growing. Northern Irelandís Minister of Education Martin McGuinness told me that integrated education could expand to accommodate up to 10% of Northern Irelandís school children if there were more resources for community start-ups.

U.S. support for integrated education is consistent with our principles and our philanthropic tradition. It can also be another powerful manifestation of the U.S. commitment to peace in Northern Ireland. I ask American citizens and businesses to consider supporting these integrated schools in any way they see appropriate.

Conclusion
One thing is clear: our common goal in Northern Ireland must be an enduring peace. This is clearly what the citizens of the whole of Ireland chose in approving the Good Friday Agreement. The process of securing peace for all must be comprehensive: political stability leads to expanded business opportunity; expanded business opportunity lead to increased prosperity for people in all communities; prosperity leads to having a stake in the future, which in turn, reinforces political stability.

We must build on the progress and growth that has occurred in Northern Ireland over the past five remarkable years. The progress we have seen has fundamentally redefined relationships -- within Northern Ireland, between North and South on the island of Ireland, and between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. I call on the leadership here today -- whether political or corporate -- to increase your investment in these relationships and to build on the positives which we have seen grow since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Those in the business community have already supported peace implicitly by creating jobs and work environments where people can leave their sectarian identities at the door. I call on them to go even further, to become a vocal constituency for peace and to connect their success with peace at every opportunity.

As President Bush said last St. Patrickís day, "We are glad to see a strong and free and rising Ireland with so much to offer its people and the entire world." This summit has been a celebration of these successes and the relationships that have underpinned them. Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedules to participate in this important summit. And thank you in advance for the efforts you will make to ensure that the fruits of this conference last.

________________________________________

For texts of other statements, testimony and articles by Richard Haass and other members of the Policy Planning Staff, please go to the Policy Planning home page.



Released on September 6, 2002

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