Statement on St. Patrick's Day and the Situation in Northern Ireland

March 17, 1983

For those of us whose ancestors come from Ireland and for those of us who share the spirit of Irish humor, hard work, and spiritual faith, St. Patrick's Day is a time of grateful celebration and much happiness.

Today is a time to honor and celebrate the enormous contribution to American life made by Irish immigrants. As frontiersmen in the American colonies and citizen soldiers in Washington's army, they helped found our Republic. Their ingenuity and effort built our economy, added to our spiritual values, and enriched our literature. Their humor enriches life's happy moments and makes life's setbacks more bearable.

And yet our joy is tempered by the tragedy that divides neighbor from neighbor in Northern Ireland. We deeply regret that some would use this day to enlist support for more violence and conflict on that small island which is so much in our hearts today. We cannot remain indifferent to the tragedy that confronts the people of Northern Ireland and which affects the Republic of Ireland, Britain, and their friends in the United States. Those who advocate or engage in violence and terrorism should find no welcome in the United States.

We condemn all such acts and oppose the forces of discord in Northern Ireland, which obstruct the process of reconciliation so essential for peace. We ask all Americans to refrain from supporting, with financial or other aid, organizations involved directly or indirectly in perpetuating violence. And we urge that those Americans -- and there are many -- who wish to help, lend their support and contributions to legitimate groups and organizations which work to promote reconciliation and economic cooperation.

The United States Government continues to take specific actions to hasten an end to this violence and discord by:

-- discouraging Americans from contributing to organizations engaged in violence;

-- arresting and prosecuting those engaged in the illegal export of arms to those groups;

-- confiscating weapons intended for terrorists.

Next to peace and reconciliation, Northern Ireland's greatest need is for jobs to bring hope and opportunity to all its people, especially the young. American companies which have invested in Northern Ireland already employ a significant percentage of its industrial work force, making a real contribution to its well-being. This administration will continue to encourage private investment in and the creation of more job opportunities in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

We recognize that it is not for the United States to chart a course for the people of Northern Ireland, but we do have an obligation to urge our longtime friends in that part of the world to seek reconciliation between the two traditions in Northern Ireland and accommodation through democratic means. Durable, equitable solutions and peace cannot be imposed by outsiders, however well-meaning. Our role, accordingly, is to support efforts by the people and governments directly involved.

So, on St. Patrick's Day 1983, let us all celebrate our Irish heritage in fine style. But let us also remember those in Northern Ireland for which 1983 is one more year of terrorism and dim economic prospects -- and let us rededicate ourselves to helping to bring these twin evils to an end.