Mr. Speaker, Prime Minister, Members of the Parliament:
I am grateful
for your welcome and for that of your countrymen.
The 13th day of
September, 1862, will be a day long remembered in American history. At
Fredericksburg, Maryland, thousands of men fought and died on one of the
bloodiest battlefields of the American Civil War. One of the most brilliant
stories of that day was written by a band of 1200 men who went into battle
wearing a green sprig in their hats. They bore a proud heritage and a special
courage, given to those who had long fought for the cause of freedom. I am
referring, of course, to the Irish Brigade. General Robert E. Lee, the great
military leader of the Southern Confederate Forces, said of this group of men
after the battle, "The gallant stand which this bold brigade made on the heights
of Fredericksburg is well known. Never were men so brave. They ennobled their
race by their splendid gallantry on that desperate occasion. Their brilliant
though hopeless assaults on our lines excited the hearty applause of our
officers and soldiers."
Of the 1200 men who took part in that assault,
280 survived the battle. The Irish Brigade was led into battle on that occasion
by Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Meagher, who had participated in the unsuccessful Irish
uprising of 1848, was captured by the British and sent in a prison ship to
Australia from whence he finally came to America. In the fall of 1862, after
serving with distinction and gallantry in some of the toughest fighting of this
most bloody struggle, the Irish Brigade was presented with a new set of flags.
In the city ceremony, the city chamberlain gave them the motto, "The Union, our
Country, and Ireland forever." Their old ones having been torn to shreds in
previous battles, Capt. Richard McGee took possession of these flags on December
2d in New York City and arrived with them at the Battle of Fredericksburg and
carried them in the battle. Today, in recognition of what these gallant Irishmen
and what millions of other Irish have done for my country, and through the
generosity of the "Fighting 69th," I would like to present one of these flags to
the people of Ireland.
As you can see gentlemen, the battle honors of
the Brigade include Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Yorktown, Fair Oaks,
Gaines Mill, Allen's Farm, Savage's Station, White Oak Bridge, Glendale, Malvern
Hill, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Bristow Station.
I am deeply honored to
be your guest in a Free Parliament in a free Ireland. If this nation had
achieved its present political and economic stature a century or so ago, my
great grandfather might never have left New Ross, and I might, if fortunate, be
sitting down there with you. Of course if your own President had never left
Brooklyn, he might be standing up here instead of me.
building, as you know, was once the property of the Fitzgerald family, but I
have not come here to claim it. Of all the new relations I have discovered on
this trip, I regret to say that no one has yet found any link between me and a
great Irish patriot, Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Lord Edward, however, did not like
to stay here in his family home because, as he wrote his mother, "Leinster House
does not inspire the brightest ideas." That was a long time ago, however. It has
also been said by some that a few of the features of this stately mansion served
to inspire similar features in the White House in Washington. Whether this is
true or not, I know that the White House was designed by James Hoban, a noted
Irish-American architect and I have no doubt that he believe by incorporating
several features of the Dublin style he would make it more homelike for any
President of Irish descent. It was a long wait, but I appreciate his efforts.
There is also an unconfirmed rumor that Hoban was never fully paid for
his work on the White House. If this proves to be true, I will speak to our
Secretary of the Treasury about it, although I hear his body is not particularly
interested in the subject of revenues.
I am proud to be the first
American President to visit Ireland during his term of office, proud to be
addressing this distinguished assembly, and proud of the welcome you have given
me. My presence and your welcome, however, only symbolize the many and the
enduring links which have bound the Irish and the Americans since the earliest
Benjamin Franklin--the envoy of the American Revolution who was
also born in Boston--was received by the Irish Parliament in 1772. It was
neither independent nor free from discrimination at the time, but Franklin
reported its members "disposed to be friends of America." "By joining our
interest with theirs," he said,"a more equitable treatment . . . might be
obtained for both nations."
Our interest have been joined ever since.
Franklin sent leaflets to Irish freedom fighters. O'Connell was influenced by
Washington, and Emmet influenced Lincoln. Irish volunteers played so predominant
a role in the American army that Lord Mountjoy lamented in the British
Parliament that "we have lost America through the Irish."
whose statue we honored yesterday and whose sword is in my office, was only one
who fought for liberty in America to set an example for liberty in Ireland.
Yesterday was the 117th anniversary of the birth of Charles Stewart
Parnell--whose grandfather fought under Barry and whose mother was born in
America--and who, at the age of 34, was invited to address the American Congress
on the cause of Irish freedom. "I have seen since I have been in this country,"
he said, "so many tokens of the good wishes of the American people toward
Ireland . . ." And today, 83 years later, I can say to you that I have seen in
this country so many tokens of good wishes of the Irish people towards America.
And so it is that our two nations, divided by distance, have been united
by history. No people ever believed more deeply in the cause of Irish freedom
than the people of the United States. And no country contributed more to
building my own than your sons and daughters. They came to our shores in a
mixture of hope and agony, and I would not underrate the difficulties of their
course once they arrived in the United States. They left behind hearts, fields,
and a nation yearning to be free. It is no wonder that James Joyce described the
Atlantic as a bowl of bitter tears. And an earlier poet wrote, "They are going,
going, going, and we cannot bid them stay."
But today this is no longer
the country of hunger and famine that those emigrants left behind. It is not
rich, and its progress is not yet complete, but it is, according to statistics,
one of the best fed countries in the world. Nor is it any longer a country of
persecution, political or religious. It is a free country, and that is why any
American feels at home.
There are those who regard this history of past
strife and exile as better forgotten. But, to use the phrase of Yeats, let us
not casually reduce "that great past to a trouble of fools." For we need not
feel the bitterness of the past to discover its meaning for the present and the
future. And it is the present and the future of Ireland that today holds so much
promise to my nation as well as to yours, and, indeed, to all mankind.
For the Ireland of 1963, one of the youngest of nations and oldest of
civilizations, has discovered that the achievement of nationhood is not an end
but a beginning. In the years since independence, you have undergone a new and
peaceful revolution, transforming the face of this land while still holding to
the old spiritual and cultural values. You have modernized your economy,
harnessed your rivers, diversified your industry, liberalized your trade,
electrified your farms, accelerated your rate of growth, and improved the living
standards of your people.
The other nations of the world--in whom
Ireland has long invested her people and her children--are now investing their
capital as well as their vacations here in Ireland. This revolution is not yet
over, nor will it be, I am sure, until a fully modern Irish economy shares in
But prosperity is not enough. Eighty-three years ago,
Henry Grattan, demanding the more independent Irish Parliament that would always
bear his name, denounced those who were satisfied merely by new grants of
economic opportunity. "A country," he said, "enlightened as Ireland, chartered
as Ireland, armed as Ireland and injured as Ireland will be satisfied with
nothing less than liberty." And today, I am certain, free Ireland--a
full-fledged member of the world community, where some are not yet free, and
where some counsel an acceptance of tyranny--free Ireland will not be satisfied
with anything less than liberty.
I am glad, therefore, that Ireland is
moving in the mainstream of current world events. For I sincerely believe that
your future is as promising as your past is proud, and that your destiny lies
not as a peaceful island in a sea of troubles, but as a maker and shaper of
For self-determination can no longer mean isolation; and
the achievement of national independence today means withdrawal from the old
status only to return to the world scene with a new one. New nations can build
with their former governing powers the same kind of fruitful relationship that
Ireland has established with Great Britain--a relationship founded on equality
and mutual interests. And no nation, large or small, can be indifferent to the
fate of others, near or far. Modern economics, weaponry and communications have
made us all realize more than ever that we are one human family and this one
planet is our home.
"The world is large," wrote John Boyle O'Reilly.
"The world is large when its weary
leagues two loving hearts divide,
"But the world is small when your enemy
is loose on the other side."
The world is even smaller today, though the enemy of John Boyle O'Reilly
is no longer a hostile power. Indeed, across the gulfs and barriers that now
divide us, we must remember that there are no permanent enemies. Hostility today
is a fact, but it is not a ruling law. The supreme reality of our time is our
indivisibility as children of God and our common vulnerability on this planet.
Some may say that all this means little to Ireland. In an age when
"history moves with the tramp of earthquake feet"--in an age when a handful of
men and nations have the power literally to devastate mankind--in an age when
the needs of the developing nations are so staggering that even the richest
lands often groan with the burden of assistance--in such an age, it may be
asked, how can a nation as small as Ireland play much of a role on the world
I would remind those who ask that question, including those in
other small countries, of the words of one of the great orators of the English
"All the world owes much to the little 'five feet high'
nations. The greatest art of the world was the work of little nations. The most
enduring literature of the world came from little nations. The heroic deeds that
thrill humanity through generations were the deeds of little nations fighting
for their freedom. And oh, yes, the salvation of mankind came through a little
Ireland has already set an example and a standard for other
small nations to follow.
This has never been a rich or powerful country,
and yet, since earliest times, its influence on the world has been rich and
powerful. No larger nation did more to keep Christianity and Western culture
alive in their darkest centuries. No larger nation did more to spark the cause
of independence in America, indeed, around the world. And no larger nation has
ever provided the world with more literary and artistic genius.
an extraordinary country. George Bernard Shaw, speaking as an Irishman, summed
up an approach to life: Other people, he said "see things and . . . say 'Why?' .
. . But I dream things that never were-- and I say: 'Why not?'"
that quality of the Irish--that remarkable combination of hope, confidence and
imagination--that is needed more than ever today. The problems of the world
cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by
the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and
ask why not. It matters not how small a nation is that seeks world peace and
freedom, for, to paraphrase a citizen of my country, "the humblest nation of all
the world, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the
hosts of Error."
Ireland is clad in the cause of national and human
liberty with peace. To the extent that the peace is disturbed by conflict
between the former colonial powers and the new and developing nations, Ireland's
role is unique. For every new nation knows that Ireland was the first of the
small nations in the 20th century to win its struggle for independence, and that
the Irish have traditionally sent their doctors and technicians and soldiers and
priests to help other lands to keep their liberty alive.
At the same
time, Ireland is part of Europe, associated with the Council of Europe,
progressing in the context of Europe, and a prospective member of an expanded
European Common Market. Thus Ireland has excellent relations with both the new
and the old, the confidence of both sides and an opportunity to act where the
actions of greater powers might be looked upon with suspicion.
central issue of freedom, however, is between those who believe in
self-determination and those in the East who would impose on others the harsh
and oppressive Communist system; and here your nation wisely rejects the role of
a go-between or a mediator. Ireland pursues an independent course in foreign
policy, but it is not neutral between liberty and tyranny and never will be.
For knowing the meaning of foreign domination, Ireland is the example
and inspiration to those enduring endless years of oppression. It was fitting
and appropriate that this nation played a leading role in censuring the
suppression of the Hungarian revolution, for how many times was Ireland's quest
for freedom suppressed only to have that quest renewed by the succeeding
generation? Those who suffer beyond that wall I saw on Wednesday in Berlin must
not despair of their future. Let them remember the constancy, the faith, the
endurance, and the final success of the Irish. And let them remember, as I heard
sung by your sons and daughters yesterday in Wexford, the words, "the boys of
Wexford, who fought with heart and hand, to burst in twain the galling chain and
free our native land."
The major forum for your nation's greater role in
world affairs is that of protector of the weak and voice of the small, the
United Nations. From Cork to the Congo, from Galway to the Gaza Strip, from this
legislative assembly to the United Nations, Ireland is sending its most talented
men to do the world's most important work--the work of peace.
sense, this export of talent is in keeping with an historic Irish role--but you
no longer go as exiles and emigrants but for the service of your country and,
indeed, of all men. Like the Irish missionaries of medieval days, like the "wild
geese" after the Battle of the Boyne, you are not content to sit by your
fireside while others are in need of your help. Nor are you content with the
recollections of the past when you face the responsibilities of the present.
Twenty-six sons of Ireland have died in the Congo; many others have been
wounded. I pay tribute to them and to all of you for your commitment and
dedication to world order. And their sacrifice reminds us all that we must not
The United Nations must be fully and fairly financed. Its
peace- keeping machinery must be strengthened. Its institutions must be
developed until some day, and perhaps some distant day, a world of law is
Ireland's influence in the United Nations is far greater than
your relative size. You have not hesitated to take the lead on such sensitive
issues as the Kashmir dispute. And you sponsored that most vital resolution,
adopted by the General Assembly, which opposed the spread of nuclear arms to any
nation not now possessing them, urging an international agreement with
inspection and controls. And I pledge to you that the United States of America
will do all in its power to achieve such an agreement and fulfill your
I speak of these matters today--not because Ireland is
unaware of its role--but I think it important that you know that we know what
you have done. And I speak to remind the other small nations that they, too, can
and must help build a world peace. They, too, as we all are, are dependent on
the United Nations for security, for an equal chance to be heard, for progress
towards a world made safe for diversity.
The peace-keeping machinery of
the United Nations cannot work without the help of the smaller nations, nations
whose forces threaten no one and whose forces can thus help create a world in
which no nation is threatened. Great powers have their responsibilities and
their burdens, but the smaller nations of the world must fulfill their
obligations as well.
A great Irish poet once wrote: "I believe
profoundly . . . in the future of Ireland . . . that this is an isle of destiny,
that that destiny will be glorious . . . and that when our hour is come, we will
have something to give to the world."
My friends: Ireland's hour has
come. You have something to give to the world--and that is a future of peace