Pelosi Remarks at Annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi hosted Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland for the Annual Friends of Ireland luncheon. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon everyone. I am very honored to call this meeting to order with a gavel. A Waterford gavel given to me by Tip O'Neil's family when I became Speaker. You can't use it too heavily, or else you can only use it once.[Laughter]
But in the spirit of Tip O'Neil, who began this lunch so many years ago, I'm pleased to have his spirit present in a Waterford, Irish, gavel. We come together at a challenging time for the – globally, for our country, for our two countries. But we come together at a time where the friendship between our two countries is so brilliant. And it is an honor to welcome the Taoiseach, once again, to the Capitol to return some of the hospitality he extended to us on our trip to Ireland. But also to welcome our delegation from Ireland – that's an applause line.
Our delegation from Northern Ireland, welcome. Our delegation from the U.K., welcome.
And now it is a very special honor for me to welcome a gentleman from the other side of the Capitol. I have heard him be praised at the American Ireland Fund dinners for his commitment to a good U.S.-Ireland relationship and taking pride in all that Ireland has given to our country. I saw him brag about his Irish roots. Now, is that an – how do you say 'brag about his Irish roots?' That's almost a given, right? If you're Irish, you brag about your Irish roots. Let us welcome, so that he can brag about his Irish roots, a person that's – just as honored with his presence here today, the distinguished Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, for sharing your family's story of patriotism and pride in your Irish roots.We are also honored to have the distinguished Democratic Leader of the Senate here, Chuck Schumer. Mr. Schumer, with a green tie. And, the Republican Leader of the House, Mr. McCarthy. And, the Democratic Leader of the House, Steny Hoyer. For many of the Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, they are here as a part of our – the caucus. The caucus that is Chaired by Richie Neal and, now also by, and for the time being, Peter King. The two of them are remarkable.
As I have said of Peter last night, we're great personal, not necessarily political, but personal friends. He is a hero in our family. Many years ago, when I was in Ireland for the christening of one of my grandchildren, we then went to Stormont Castle to join a CODEL that was there, a bipartisan CODEL. And we saw Mr. King forcefully, vocally, brilliantly and, almost, physically being a fighter for peace in Northern Ireland. He can tell that story differently when we go to the Dubliner, but he has been a real champion and just has brought us all together in so many different ways. Thank you, Peter King.
And Richie Neal, since we all saw you last year at this lunch, and in between as well, we had our visit to the U.K., to Ireland and to Northern Ireland. Many of those of us who were on the CODEL are in this room. And, it was a time when we made clear to our very good friends whom we respect in the U.K. of our dedication – dedication to the Good Friday Accords – not as an issue, but as an ethic, as a value. And that for us – it was something that had bipartisan, bicameral support to sustain. So, we wouldn't want anything that was done in any Brexit arrangement to undermine the Good Friday Accords.
When we were there in Northern Ireland, a speaker brought together a great welcome for us – hundreds of people, children – children – children all born since the Good Friday Accords. It was so remarkable, because the children – one Catholic and one Protestant – who spoke, basically said, 'We don't know conflict. We don't want to go back to that. We are telling our parents we want our future.' As President Clinton would say, 'We want to make our tomorrow,' as he did say when he spoke in Ireland.
I had the privilege – can you imagine what a great privilege it was to speak to the Dáil, which was the hundredth anniversary? And as Speaker of the House, I was invited to speak there to convey the good wishes of the Congress of the United States. It was an honor. Did I mention that Bono was there? [Laughter]
And then speaking of special guests, when we were in Ulster, Richie Neal – I wish you could have all heard Richie Neal speak at the Tip O'Neill-John Hume Lecture Series, but he was receiving an award in recognition as well. That time he spoke beautifully about the relationship between our two countries and what the Irish have brought to America, but he also said, in that context, talked about his grandmother, Mary Ward, who left Ireland, coming here not knowing if she would ever see any of her family members again.
The Irish immigrant experience – an experience that brought so much to America. You know the list of things, whether it was fighting in the War of Independence; fighting in the Civil War; building America; Sisters of Mercy; Sisters of Notre Dame. The school Sisters of Notre Dame, where I was taught by the Irish nuns, as well.
So many things, the arts, the sciences, the medical field, academia, you name it. The Irish have made a tremendous contribution. Among them, my three grandchildren, Liam, Sean and Ryan, who I quoted last year, with their favorite, their favorite toast, you know 'Dance as if no one is watching. Sing as if no one can hear you. Love as if you have never loved before. Live, again, as if it's heaven on Earth.' When I asked them if that was a family toast, they said no, it was on a poster at the Shannon Airport.
But you've heard that before. And so, it is in that spirit of the immigrant spirit that has built America. The courage, the determination, as we talked about last night, the hopes, the dreams, the courage to leave home and come to America, to make the future better for your family. Those are American traits to make the future better with hope and courage and determination. And every immigrant who comes here makes America – as did the Irish – makes America, makes America more American. Stronger in our commitment to future generations. So not only for the Irish in America, because everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day. And we've – in San Francisco we start celebrating St. Patrick's day one day after Valentine's day until one day before Cinco de Mayo. So –
It's a long celebration. And we hope that the Taoiseach will visit us there soon again. But in any event, for all of the Members of the House, for your, for your courage, for your patriotism, for your country, for your leadership, taking it down new paths. Not only do we welcome you, those of us here, but the welcome comes from so many people across the country, who admire your leadership, Taoiseach, who are so proud of you. And on behalf of all of them, as well as my colleagues, we welcome you to the Capitol.
And did I tell you this one story that I told you last year? You weren't here. I took him on a tour when he first came and I said 'We are going to give this special tour of the Capitol.' And he reminded me that when he was an intern, in an office here, he used to give that tour of the Capitol.
Welcome home, Taoiseach, welcome home.
Speaker Pelosi. How beautiful, how lovely. Thank you, Taoiseach for not only honoring us with your presence, but inspiring us with your words. We've had all this conversation before we've even said a prayer. And now it is time to do that. But, before we do that, I wanted to acknowledge the presence of the Irish Ambassador, Ambassador Mulhall and his wife Greta who are with us here today.
I have to admit that I did eat some food before the prayer, so if you did too then we'll take a Lenten privilege from the guest I'm about to introduce. Father Gary Donegan – a strong voice for peace and reconciliation and he's here to deliver the invocation for us. Father, thank you.