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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Press Availability Following the Northern Ireland Business Working Group

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
The Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
October 12, 2009


VICE CHANCELLOR GREGSON: Secretary of State, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Queen’s University Belfast is extremely honored to welcome back Hillary Clinton. As First Lady, she made a considerable contribution for the search for peace in Northern Ireland. Her commitment to this place has never wavered, and now as Secretary of State she returns with a focus on economic development to underpin the emergence of a strong and competitive Northern Ireland.

Today, I have pledged Queen’s total commitment to raise aspirations, to create wealth and improve the quality of life for all our people. To this end, we at Queen’s will continue to work with the U.S. Administration, with the Northern Ireland executive, and with business on both sides of the Atlantic.

So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Secretary of State of the United States of America. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much, Vice Chancellor Peter Gregson. It is such a delight for me to be back here at Queen’s University Belfast and to have this opportunity to spend some time talking about the future of Northern Ireland and the potential for the prosperity that is so well-deserved for all of those who have labored along.

I want to thank everyone assembled behind me, most particularly Minister Arlene Foster, Minister Reg Empey, our Ambassador Lou Susman, our Consul General Kamala Lakhdhir. This has been a very successful event, and not so long ago this discussion would not have been as likely as it is today. But today, the situation in Northern Ireland, the peace that has been achieved, is translating into greater opportunities for companies and workers on both sides of the Atlantic. It has been very encouraging to hear the positive and optimistic outlook of business leaders from the United States and Northern Ireland who are meeting to address bilateral trade and investment.

And I’m pleased to have been accompanied by more than a dozen American businessmen and women who have pledged to work with a business delegation from Northern Ireland and with our Special Economic Envoy Declan Kelly to foster even more business activity between us. They will be meeting regularly. They will help Declan develop strategies that can be pursued that will be mutually beneficial and will contribute to the recovery of the global economy.

In the past 18 months, Northern Ireland’s economy has proven sturdier than many others. The people of Northern Ireland have remained competitive, in part because of their skills and their education and their work ethic. This has been particularly true in financial services, health systems, information and communications technology. Even during the economic downturn, there’s been more than $1 billion of inward investment by 40 companies in Belfast and beyond, and several leading American companies have demonstrated their confidence in Northern Ireland by making significant investments in recent years.

Today, NaviNet, a leading U.S. healthcare communications network based in Boston, is announcing plans for a software research and design center in Belfast. Later this month, the Irish Technology Leadership Group will host a forum in Belfast with leading technology firms from Silicon Valley to promote greater trade and cooperation.

We can also be encouraged by recent news that the Titanic Signature Building, the centerpiece of the Titanic Signature Project, will move ahead – full speed ahead, navigating carefully. This is one of the largest real estate projects in Northern Ireland, another reflection of the tangible economic progress underway.

Now, these efforts to promote greater partnership are win-win. We often talk about the investment in Northern Ireland, but there’s also been thousands of jobs created in the United States because of Northern Ireland-led investments. And that greater prosperity, that sense of economic security, will enhance and make more durable the peace that Northern Ireland has worked so hard to achieve.

The opportunities that we discussed today and that were discussed in greater detail at a dinner amongst everyone last night would not have been possible without the heroic and courageous efforts of many leaders in government, the private sector, and in the communities at the grassroots who have steadfastly pushed this land and one another along the path to peace.

The vitality and dynamism of the business sector in Northern Ireland represents a great opportunity, first and foremost for the people themselves. But it also sends a strong signal far beyond Belfast or the shores of Northern Ireland. It sends a signal that there is a path toward peace, there is a way forward despite the difficulties, there is the potential for prosperity to accompany and to help catalyze peace, and vice versa.

So we are looking forward to the work of this distinguished group, and I am very grateful for the opportunity that I have had to play a small role in encouraging the extraordinary progress that I have witnessed with my own eyes over the last 14 years. So again, thanks to all of you in government and in business and in academia and every other sector of society in Northern Ireland for making such a commitment and seeing it through, and then realizing the benefits that flow because of that. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

VICE CHANCELLOR GREGSON: The Secretary will take a few questions. The first question is to Mark Davenport, BBC Northern Ireland.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Welcome to Belfast, Madame Secretary. First of all on the key question of devolution of justice, you met with key players today. How do you think they might be prepared to make a decisive move forward?

And also given your role at the State Department, can I ask you about (inaudible) Northern Ireland (inaudible) international aspect. You may know that some victims of IRA violence here have been lobbying Libya for compensation. Do you think they should get parity of treatment with those U.S. citizens who’ve already managed to secure compensation over the (inaudible) of the airliner (inaudible) Lockerbie’s government?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mark, as to the first question, this is clearly a decision that is up to the leaders of Northern Ireland and to the people of Northern Ireland. Obviously, this is not just a decision for leaders to make; it is a decision for people to address and speak out about and decide among themselves.

I think as was clear from my remarks this morning, this remarkable journey that Northern Ireland has been on is not yet complete. But ultimately, the decisions about moving forward rest with those who live here day by day and bear responsibility for making them. But I am encouraged, and certainly, as a friend, would hope to see the progress that has come so far make it possible for even greater positive consequences for the people here and even greater responsibility by the people here for charting their own course.

With respect to your second question, I think that – I grieve for the victims of any violence. I’ve had the honor over the last years to meet with many victims, to meet with the loved ones of those who were killed, to hear the stories of loss and pain that are not confined to any one community or any one neighborhood. And one of the great accomplishments is that so many of those stories and the pain that they bear are part of the past, not the future. But they are also clearly losses that have to be respected, recognized, and honored.

I do not have an opinion about the question you asked specifically, but I think it is important, as we find in any conflict situation, as we move forward to make a better future for the next generation, not to forget the price that was paid by those in the past, and to do what we can to make sure that their loss, their injury, is not forgotten, but that it is honored as we make the tough decisions and take the risks to try to create conditions where no one else will have to face that kind of pain.

VICE CHANCELLOR GREGSON: Next question, Mark Landler, New York Times.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you alluded in your speech to a couple of difficult moments along the path – the shooting of the security officers, the debate over devolution. Are either of these an impediment to American businesses investing in Northern Ireland? What incentives beyond moral support, which you’ve noted is important, is the U.S. Government giving to businesses to encourage them to invest here versus anywhere else?

And if I could go off topic just briefly, there are media reports that North Korea has test-fired five short-range missiles. This comes at a time that the North Korean leadership is eager – says it’s eager for talks with the United States and the others. How could you possibly contemplate entering into a dialogue with North Korea after an event like this?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Mark, with respect to investment and economic growth and prosperity in Northern Ireland, I think it goes hand in hand. The announcement of the ceasefires in the 1990s sparked a great deal of interest in the United States and elsewhere in, for the first time, looking seriously at Northern Ireland as a place to invest in and do business in. And because the results for many businesses were positive, the word spread. And because the political leadership kept moving forward, the conditions solidified. So for me, it’s a hand-in-hand kind of analysis, and I’m very optimistic about both the political and the economic future of Northern Ireland.

I think too that the United States Government has had a commitment to the peace and prosperity of Northern Ireland now through three administrations – two Democratic, one Republican. One of the two agreements, the Good Friday Agreement, happened when my husband was president. The second agreement, the St. Andrew Agreement, happened when George Bush was president. So the United States sees it in our interest, and it’s not just a matter of personal connections, family, heritage, ancestry, and the like. We see it in our national interest to support those who take risks for peace, whoever and wherever they are. The world needs more people who are willing to step out and do the hard work of negotiating, of hearing the other side, of being able to get out of one’s comfort zone to recognize what it takes to bring people together, to compromise a little to get so much more.

So we have often said that we support the Northern Ireland process on its merits because of our concern and our commitment to doing so, but we also see it as a story that needs to be told more broadly. And as I mentioned in my speech this morning, I have talked about it in many places throughout the world where conflict still causes the pain and suffering that, unfortunately, we see. And so the United States, in addition to helping to be a convener and a supporter of the decisions that the people themselves must make, we’ll do things like appoint a special economic envoy, we’ll facilitate the kind of participation in groups that we see behind us, because we believe that it’s a very important process with outcomes that have already proven the value of this kind of engagement.

With respect to North Korea, our goals remain the same. We intend to work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula that can demonstrate in a verifiable way that it is. We have made a lot of progress with the other members of the Six-Party Talks who joined us in the very strong sanctions against North Korea and who have been working with us to restart a process there. I have no more information than what we have just heard prior to coming in here. But our goal remains the same. Our consultation with our partners and allies continues unabated. It is unaffected by the behavior of North Korea. We pursue this goal like we pursue all of our national security goals – through obstacles, overcoming challenges, a persistent patience that doesn't have any guarantee of outcome but is a very important way of us building a coalition and creating the space to try to demonstrate clearly to the North Koreans that the international community will not accept their continuing nuclear program.

VICE CHANCELLOR GREGSON: And the final question for Ken Reid, Ulster Television.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, again welcome to (inaudible).


QUESTION: Considering the economic problems in your own country, will your interest in Northern Ireland continue, and more specifically (inaudible) other trouble spots in the world?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, certainly my interest will continue, as will that of the Obama Administration, for the reasons that I have already referenced. But you see, we do see the economic prosperity as a two-way street. I have forgotten how many thousands of jobs have been created by Northern Ireland investment in the United States. That would not be possible if the economy and the conditions for investment in a stable, peaceful Northern Ireland were not present. So we have Americans working today because of both political and economic decisions that were made in Northern Ireland. And of course, the contrary is true as well with all of the investments that are coming this way.

We also believe that the interdependent, interconnected global economy that we have witnessed firsthand with the economic recession requires that we think carefully about where we do make investments. And a place like Northern Ireland, with the work ethic, with the educational attainment, with the support of the government, is a particularly attractive environment so long as conditions remain positive. But it’s also a place where we have a lot of common values and shared interests, where we feel very comfortable doing business, and where people from Northern Ireland feel comfortable doing business. We think that’s a win-win.

And certainly, the purpose I have in being here today is to meet with my counterparts in government, meet with these business leaders, and to reaffirm the commitment that I myself have and that this Administration and President Obama have to the people of Northern Ireland. If there were ever any doubts, I hope it’s been put to rest, because as I said earlier, we will stand with you, we will make this journey with you, we will support you as you make the tough decisions that only you can make, because we believe the payoff for you is so considerable, but we also believe it’s in our interest for this to occur and it is a story to tell the rest of the world when the world desperately needs to know there is an alternative. And if you don’t believe it, come to Northern Ireland.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2009/T13-5

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