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Irish Voice News
Looking Forward to Strengthening Ties
November 12, 2008
By Minister Micheal Martin
OBVIOUSLY I am writing during historic times with the election of the first African American president of the United States of America. Even from across the Atlantic we in Ireland cannot escape the sense of history – and be reminded of all those who took part in the civil rights movement four decades ago.
I want to congratulate Barack Obama. His remarkable personal story together with his charisma sends a powerful message to America’s friends across the world.
I also want to congratulate Joe Biden. Over many decades, Joe has proved himself to be a true Irish American leader with a deep understanding of Irish issues and of the things that matter most to our community in the U.S.
Ireland and the U.S. have left an indelible imprint on each other, and the story of our two peoples are forever inextricably linked. The president-elect has a deep appreciation of this legacy and has signaled his firm intention to further strengthen our excellent relationship in the coming period.
I look forward to working closely with his new administration and the new Congress to seize the opportunities and tackle the challenges that we all face in the globalized world of the 21st century.
During my recent visit to Washington, D.C. and New York, I noted that both presidential candidates have supported immigration reform legislation which would address the issue of the undocumented Irish in the U.S. Delivering a solution for our people caught in this very difficult situation will not be easy— it may take more time — but there is now a fresh opportunity to finally deliver on their behalf.
As minister for foreign affairs, I will certainly be engaging with the new administration and Congress on this priority issue for the government, and will continue our wider efforts to reform our bilateral migration arrangements with the U.S.
During his campaign, Obama also spoke of his commitment to the peace process. His decision to appoint a special envoy to the North is a positive indication that his administration will seek to fully engage on this issue.
The peace now enjoyed on this island would simply not have happened without the support and the encouragement of the U.S.
Earlier this week I joined other EU foreign ministers to discuss key areas where we would see close cooperation with the new U.S. government.
A priority will be the rebuilding of international institutions, most notably the United Nations, and to work through them to meet the challenges we all face, such as climate change as well as international economic and financial regulation.
Internationally we want to work with the administration of President Obama to try and resolve the complex issues of the Middle East. We also need to work together to address the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
We will be seeking a large degree of cooperation regarding relations with Russia. We must be firm on the principles of democracy and self-determination while at the same time prudent and balanced.
There will be other days to assess President Bush’s legacy. From our perspective, I will however recall that he moved quickly to appoint a special envoy to the North, and over the past eight years his administration maintained a steady interest in the peace process and made useful interventions at key moments.
President Bush showed a strong commitment to the developing world. He worked with the Congress to double aid to Africa to $4.4 billion. This commitment was not always given the recognition it deserved.
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen has already formally invited Obama to Ireland and their ancestral home of Co. Offaly. I have no doubt that if he makes the journey across the Atlantic that Obama will be warmly received by people throughout the country.
(Micheal Martin is Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs.)
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