Pelosi Remarks at Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings

John Boehner

Newsroom

April 19, 2019

Belfast, Northern Ireland – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Delegation visited the Northern Ireland parliament buildings.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for your kind words of introduction and for the invitation to be here, for bringing us all today.  #BalanceForBetter.

[Laughter]

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  It is an honor to be here with you Speaker Newton and I want to acknowledge Chief Executive Lesley Hogg who runs the show and makes this all possible today as well.

What an honor it is to be here with each and every one of you.  The Speaker indicated that this was our last event on our way home for Easter but it is of the highest priority.  To be here on Good Friday with you is our purpose.  To come, to listen, to learn, to pay our respects and to do so that has resulted in such inspiration for us to listen to Joanna, to listen to Hannah speak about the future in such a beautiful way.

I travel the world quite a bit and I always want to listen to young people wherever I go.  When I was listening to Joanna and Hannah, I was reminded here of what I hear other places – that young people are impatient with war.  They are impatient with leaders who won’t make peace and reconcile their differences because young people want a good education, job opportunities, address the climate crisis, eliminate discrimination in so many ways and they see war or conflict as an obstacle to that and that’s what we heard from Joanna and Hannah.  Weren’t they wonderful?

[Applause]

Aren’t they wonderful?  And I know they give voice to the sentiments of many people, many of whom are gathered in this room.  And the comments that we heard from them and, thank you Richie, for going after them.  That was really kind of you to do.

[Laughter]

Not that you weren’t wonderful!  We will carry their message back to the Congress of the United States and across the country, from sea to shining sea.  Mr. Horsford will take it back to Nevada.  Mr. Kildee will take it to Michigan.  Congresswoman – where are you? – Congresswoman DelBene will take it back to Washington state?  Two will take it to Connecticut – Joe Courtney and John Larson.  To the great state of New York, Mr. Higgins will take it there.  Brendan Boyle will take it back to Pennsylvania and it will take on another message because his father was born in Donegal so he has a connection there.

So, all of our Members here are for a purpose and you are fulfilling that purpose for us because you are telling us that the Good Friday Accords are alive and well, that we have a commitment to protect them and that those young people who were born since it was signed are in charge of their own future.  That’s what President Clinton and Senator Mitchell had in mind.  Clinton said it so well, he said it is not just about older people giving younger people the benefit of their yesterdays, it is about giving them ‘their own tomorrows’ — that you will shape clearly.

Our delegation, again, we are pleased to be at this historic estate.  Isn’t it something quite wonderful?  But as I say when people come to the Capitol, ‘This is a historic place and we respect that.  But this is about the future.’  Respect history but it is about the future.  This place has been a witness to some much of Northern Ireland’s proud history but many of us have been here on occasions when it was a little more rough and tumble shall we say?  Before the Accords.  Lovely to be here now.

On these grounds, the beautiful ‘Reconciliation’ sculpture – reconciliation – what a beautiful word.  That embrace beautifully tells the story of peace – its identical casts mark — that I have seen myself at the Hiroshima Peace Park and the Berlin Wall and now here as a symbol of peace.

Sadly, we join you, all of us, in our delegation and I’m sure everyone in this room in sadness on the tragedy that happened last night.  We send condolences to the family.  On this Good Friday, it is especially poignant but you not only had a moment of silence, you gave a sense of resolve that justice would be done and the memory of that young woman would be a lesson for all of us.  So, thank you for all of that.

Of course, what we see now stands in stark contrast to what we had seen when we came years ago and we would hope that that contrast would continue.  It is – you are inheritors of great promise, great sacrifice, great courage of the people who made the decisions to make peace.  It is not an easy thing so we salute them on this Good Friday, 21 years later.

I’ve said that what was stunning to me when we went to the GPO in Dublin was to see the picture or photograph of David Trimble and John Hume on the stage with Bono without jackets at a U2 concert right at the time of the signing of the accords.  And actually, when the accords were passed, we think maybe young people made the difference in that election.  Some of the people at the Belfast U2 concert and saw the courage of those two men and what they did.  So, know your power.  There is no one like you.  You are a unique you.  To the extent that you decide you want to play a role in the political life of your country which means to shape the future.

As I said, whether it is the arts, sports, politics, or business, make your mark because they are all ways of bringing people together and reconciling.  And what’s really beautiful about it – all of those ways – engaging in entrepreneurship in sports, music, business, you name it, there are places when you can find common ground and that serves you well in finding common ground in the political arena.

As the Speaker said, it is a busy time in Washington D.C.  Yes, indeed it is.  Not for us, the most important place to be on this Good Friday is with each and every one of you.

I thank our Consul General Trudeau for making our visit possible.  I’m honored that our distinguished ambassador, Ambassador Johnson, is with us this morning.  This is, across the board, bipartisan, bicameral, House and Senate, a commitment to all of you, to your courage, to your future.

Again, how many times have I quoted Seamus Heaney along the way?  Just yesterday, Mr. Neal began a doctorate at the University of Ulster.

[Applause]

He said then, and others of us have said it again and again, he though said, I’ll be briefer – he gave the whole quote, I’ll just give one sentence, ‘Once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history can rhyme.’  This generation will make hope and history rhyme.

Thank you for the opportunity to join you.  One more thing I want to say about Speaker Newton, thank you for the role in promoting women, thank you for acknowledging the leadership of women among the young people but in the peace process and thank you in your own political life for the support of young people.  Thank you, Speaker Newton.

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning everyone.  We came here in the spirit of hope, respect, to listen and to learn and, indeed we did learn from the young people of Northern Ireland.  Hannah and Joanna gave us not only great words but with great conviction about their hopes and their determination for the future.  It was saddened, however, by the violence and the murder of a young woman in Derry-Londonderry.  The Speaker very beautifully spoke about that sadness that goes with that but also the determination to bring the person who perpetrated that crime to justice and to extend the deepest sympathies and sadness to the family on this Good Friday as we go into Easter.

We are here about the Good Friday Accords, the Belfast Good Friday Accords, to restate – not that it needs restating – the U.S. commitment to the Good Friday Accords.  We believe it was a blessing not only to Northern Ireland and Ireland but a model to the world of reconciliation and people look to it with great hope for their own countries.  We don’t want anything to happen in the Belfast negotiations to undermine the Good Friday Accords.  In fact, we see the Brexit discussion as an aberration from the path of peace, that great horizon of democracy to ever improve it.

I am very pleased to be here with a strong delegation from across America led by our distinguished Chairman.  Yesterday, Dr. Richie Neal, received a doctorate, delivered the Tip O’Neil-John Hume lecture at Ulster University.  Also joined by Congressman Higgins of New York who is writing the book on Michael Higgins.  Joe Crowley from the state of Connecticut – excuse me, Courtney – Joe Courtney, Joe Courtney, Joe Courtney from the state of Connecticut.  I’ll say it three times.  Congresswoman Suzan DelBene of Washington State.  Congressman John Larson of Connecticut.  Congressman Steven Horsford of Nevada.  Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan.  And Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania whose father was born in Donegal.  So, he is here with his wife Jenny and the family.  Is Jennifer here?  Jennifer is here, Jennifer Kildee and my husband Paul is here as well.

We come here with hearts full of love for the people of Northern Ireland, minds full of hope for what the prospects are, recognizing that the U.S., the United States and President Bill Clinton, Senator George Mitchell – recognizing that this is an ongoing guarantee that the United States has for these peace accords and what they mean for the children of Northern Ireland and what they mean to all of Ireland and to the world.  With that, I am pleased to yield to Doctor, Chairman, Congressman Richie Neal.

Chairman Neal.  Thank you, Madam Speaker. This has been informative and delightful.  Informative in the sense that along the way, I don’t think we’ve met anybody who would for one moment would propose any alternative to the Good Friday Agreement and I think the one position we offer as well is no return to a hard border.  We’ve made that as clear as you can.  I will tell you, upstairs, children from both traditions applauded when that was stated.  So I think that we understand that the people of the United Kingdom, through referendum, made a determination and we have offered our position that is equally clear that is America is a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and we don’t want to see it compromised in any sense or turn.

At the same time, I think we are also reminded by the events last night in Derry-Londonderry about just how fragile the peace can be and I think the sporadic violence that was witnessed called attention to the very important role that the PSNI continue to offer so I think that Good Friday we still leave here with a spirit of optimism.  If you heard the speeches upstairs, you would know exactly what I’m talking about.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you all very much.

Staff.  We are going to open up to questions.  Yes?

Q:  From BBC, Speaker Pelosi, you were in Derry from yesterday, you spoke about the importance of the Good Friday Agreement.  How do you feel about the events of last night?  How do you think the events of last night, the killing of Lyra McKee reflects on that?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, thank you for your question.  Yes, indeed, we were there yesterday.  What happened – the tragedy in Derry-Londonderry since then is in stark contrast to what we saw yesterday.  What we say – it was remarkable, it was remarkable – not to diminish the significance of the loss of life and that is a tragedy.  What we saw was a remarkable community with a border going through it that didn’t exist – the yellow line, the white line.

What was interesting to me is that there was so much traffic.  In fact, we held it up so we had to be brief which is a challenge to Members of Congress as you can imagine.  So many cars going both ways without even hesitating or any time hold up or any suspicion.  So it was a beautiful sight to behold.  So, hopefully what happened last night was an aberration and one that will be addressed as unthinkable in the future.

Do you want to say something about that?

Chairman Neal.  Sure, I think that – we’ve always been mindful that there would be dissident violence.  The PSNI and the political parties all have acknowledged that they have to deal with it.  If I could say something to our friends in the media, I think it is appropriate for you to continually remind people of what it was like 25 years ago.  Upstairs you could meet men and women of good will who have put the past behind them, meet young men and women who did not even know that part of history.  When the Speaker upstairs spoke of community, he spoke of two traditions in one community and acknowledging the success of the Good Friday Agreement is really important and I will say this as well one of the other successes of the Good Friday Agreement – there is no appetite in America for a return to the violence that was such a prevalent part of life in this part of the island of Ireland.

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Neal, I’ve tracked your activities for the last week and you gave a very firm impression that this was not a box-ticking exercise, this was the United States close links with Ireland over the years being manifested one more time.  How concerned are you that the political vacuum we witness here today where there is no power sharing is undermining the peace process?  And secondly, in the past, the United States provided very strong practical and moral support for the peace process.  Do you see any value in the United States offering an envoy as happened with George Mitchell to try to restore power sharing in this building on Good Friday 2019?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I – I’ll take the second half and yield to Dr. Mr. Chairman Neal on the first part of your question.  I think the value of an envoy has value if the community is interested in that.  I think the community has moved on from needing a U.S. envoy.  They may not think so but I think the level of courage that we see, the sophistication in terms of understanding what is at stake and the willingness to meet the needs of the people are very clear here and I’m not sure that an envoy would be useful unless the people here thought so.  It’s not just about us taking pride in continuing our association so everyone remembers – we can do that in other ways.  I listened to what others had to say about that, from what I see, I don’t necessarily see the need for an envoy.  I’ll yield to Mr. Neal.  A lot of people would like the job!

Chairman Neal.  First question – on the three occasions I have had the chance to speak to public audiences I have reaffirmed not only our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement but to encourage all the parties to go back to government as soon as possible.  It is in the absence of government that there becomes a void for chaos and I think that – I understand the idea that we hold out for certain principles – but the crucible of politics offers the opportunity to sort those differences of opinions.  As we call for the continued commitment to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, there were certain – I understand – ambiguities satisfied almost everybody and that is what a legislative body does.  You don’t find the one thing you disagree with, you find the many things you do agree with.

Speaker Pelosi.  By the way, Hannah and Joanna spoke to that point of wanting the government to get going again.

Staff.  One more question.

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, just on a slightly different subject, can I ask you about the Mueller report, specifically the suggestion that President Trump could be prosecuted by Congress.  Is that something you would like to see happen and do you think Robert Mueller has more questions to answer following the publication of the report?

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me say, I understand why you would ask that question.  Timely in what is happening in Washington DC.  I would just say this: on any trip, CODEL, I go on with my colleagues, we do not leave the country to criticize the President of the United States.  We may have differences on policy but we are not there to criticize.

Q:  Would you have Robert Mueller testify before Congress?

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me say it another way: let me assure you that whatever the issue or the challenge we face, the Congress of United States will honor its oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, to protect our democracy.  We believe the first article, Article I, the legislative branch has the responsibility of oversight of our democracy and we will exercise that.

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