Remarks at the U.S.-Northern Ireland Economic Conference

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Loy Henderson Auditorium
Washington, DC
October 19, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you my, friend. Thank you, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all. Well, good morning and I bring greetings to each and every one of you, as I welcome you to the State Department for this U.S.-Northern Ireland Economic Conference.

There are so many people who have made this event possible and I will thank just a few of them, including First Minister Robinson and deputy First Minister McGuinness, the Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster, Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey, Chairman Alban Maginness. Those of you from Northern Ireland, thank you for the work you’re doing every single day to lay the foundation for a stable, peaceful, and prosperous future.

I also want to thank for his attendance UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson, along with Irish Minister of State Peter Power. I’m grateful to both of them for taking their time to travel here to show their support for building stronger economic ties between Northern Ireland and the United States.

And I especially want to thank and recognize Declan Kelly, the U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland. I appointed Declan to this post in September 2009, and just a little more than a year later, I think, it proves the wisdom of that appointment. He was asked to direct private sector outreach and encourage and coordinate U.S. investment in Northern Ireland. And he’s been working very closely with the Government in Northern Ireland as well as the Government in the U.K. and Ireland itself.

Invest NI and the U.S. and Northern Ireland working groups have really come together to look for new opportunities that we can help promote and achieve. And thanks to these combined efforts, as Declan has said, American companies have recently created more than 1,000 new jobs in Northern Ireland, including 100 jobs created by GE Energy and more than 300 in the Belfast office of the New York Stock Exchange.

And this morning – have you already had two new investments announced? Dow Chemical will open a supply chain consulting service in Belfast and the Terex Corporation will open a European business services center as well.

These jobs are not just numbers. They represent opportunities for people, particularly young people, to be able to feel a strong connection with and make a stake in the future that we’re all so supportive of seeing.

The Envoy’s office also launched the U.S.-Northern Ireland mentorship program, placing young people from Northern Ireland in American companies for one-year internships. As a senator for eight years from New York, I saw firsthand the impact of these programs. We often had interns from Northern Ireland in my office and there were other successful mentoring programs as well. And I urge every business here to open your doors to an intern from Northern Ireland this year.

And finally, I want to thank everyone at the U.S. Consulate General in Belfast. I see our Consul General there. Your team has done a great job in supporting the Envoy’s office and driving economic development as one of our key commitments.

Now, I’m not telling you anything when I say that for a long time, when Americans, and particularly American businesses, heard the words “Northern Ireland,” the first thing that came to mind was not investment opportunities. And it really froze the potential for development despite the work ethic and the achievements of the people themselves.

But recently, thanks to the courage and hard work on behalf of the people on every – from every community, from every community and every part of Northern Ireland, now when people say Northern Ireland, the words that come to mind are “reconciliation, hope, and opportunity.” And people are looking to you and seeing a potential for their own futures.

And through conferences like these and the conversations and collaborations that they lead to, people are understanding the economic potential of Northern Ireland. It has a prime location; two world-class research institutions; an educated, competitive workforce; a superior telecommunications infrastructure; a supportive policy environment – and some might even say that the population speaks English – sort of. (Laughter.) All key ingredients for the rise of new businesses as people are expanding their global reach.

But while this is a good story, too few people have heard it. And we have brought you here today to change that. To spark a conversation between the U.S. business community and Northern Ireland’s leaders about what is possible, how to create partnerships for investment that can pay off for both people, that can be quite profitable, and in addition, strengthen the foundation of peace and stability.

Because fostering economic growth in Northern Ireland will do more than provide much-needed paychecks. It will do more than open new markets. We’re meeting at the State Department, rather than the Commerce Department or the offices of the United States Trade Representative, because a stronger economy in Northern Ireland will help secure a lasting peace. And peace in Northern Ireland is a bedrock foreign policy priority for the United States.

It is also a personal priority for me. I’ve been working on this issue for a long time, as First Lady with my husband, as Senator from New York, and now as Secretary of State. In those years, I’ve made a lot of new friends and I have seen a lot of changes. And I have also recognized how hard it is to move from an unacceptable reality, but one that is familiar, one that is to some extent comfortable, to take a risk for peace, to cross mental, psychological, even physical divides. Now I spend most of my time as Secretary of State traveling around the world trying to convince people to take that same risk for peace.

I was recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the scars of that war, the horrors that accompanied it are still very fresh. And yet I met with 400-plus young people – Bosniak Muslims, Croats and Serbs, and they wanted to look forward. They wanted to stake their claim on a different kind of future. The politics wasn’t yet cooked enough to permit that.

And then I went to Belgrade, where a remarkable occurrence deserved more attention than it received, where the president of Serbia, a very determined young man, wants to look toward Europe. And his parliament, the parliament of Serbia, issued an apology for Srebrenica, first time that we can find any parliament in Europe apologizing, for responsibility taken and assumed and regretted for what had happened yesterday.

And then I went on to Kosovo, where the people there, also recovering from ethnic cleansing and war, are hoping that they too have a different future. And because Serbia wants to be in the European Union, there will now be a dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, something that nobody thought could happen just a year ago.

So Northern Ireland, which has made such a commitment to head in a different direction, is not only looked at with admiration and hope, but now has both the opportunity and the responsibility to deliver on that. And that’s where all of you come in, because the best antidote to a history that otherwise imprisons you is an opportunity that liberates you. And the economic opportunities are what we are focusing on today, because we know that to survive, peace must be visible beyond the halls of government or even the meeting places where former adversaries come together to work out their differences. It must be seen in daily improvements in people’s lives, not just in the absence of violence but the presence of good jobs, business starts, skills learned, communities recovered from decline.

And we know there are people in Northern Ireland, as there are everywhere in the world, for whom peace exists only as a concept. Dissident groups continue to exploit every chance they get to influence people in those hard-to-reach communities where peace is most fragile. And we need to prove in republican and loyalist communities alike that peace pays off. That means working to bring opportunity to all of Northern Ireland. We cannot continue to isolate any group or any geographic location. We have to increase the credibility of the power-sharing government and maintain momentum behind the peace process.

So what you are doing here today is not some luxury or add-on to the process of making peace. It’s really essential. And I hope that the connections you make and the encouragement you’re given will bear fruit for your employees, your constituents, your companies, and certainly for Northern Ireland.

I had the privilege of addressing the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont last October, and I really was honored to be able to do so. I felt that we were at a moment of great potential, of real ripeness. And I said then what I have said many times since: Now, we must make good on the promise of delivering a peace dividend to the people of Northern Ireland. I know that both the governments of – in Dublin and London are very committed to this, but I know that they face their own very difficult budget and economic situations. We know something of that here in Washington.

And I know further that Northern Ireland is very dependent on government expenditures from Westminster. And I hope that whatever happens with the announcements that have to come from the government of Prime Minister Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Clegg that there’s no discouragement or no despair about whatever the outcome might be, but instead, a renewal of commitment. Because in the long run, it’s these kinds of jobs and these kinds of opportunities that are more lasting and more predictable and more hopeful in building the better lives that all of us who labor in politics and government are trying to help produce.

So I am certainly committed to this important task and it gives me an opportunity to come back and visit so that I can check up on what’s going on. And I’m very happy to take that opportunity sometime in the future, but we’re here today because you share our mission and our goal of promoting prosperity and opportunity in Northern Ireland for the people who have waited for it and deserve it right now, today in their lives. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2010/1482