Nancy Pelosi: Good Friday Agreement treasured as 'beacon to the world'

Nancy Pelosi: Good Friday Agreement treasured as 'beacon to the world'
US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi with President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin

Our two nations may be divided by distance but are united by history.

The words expressed by John F Kennedy in 1963 in his address to the Oireachtas were repeated eloquently today by current US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The words are no less impactful, 56 years on.

The shared history is one born out of tragedy, poverty, starvation and persecution but, as she noted, one that led to the fulfilment of the American dream.

“Both our nations know the joy of independence, endured the trauma of civil war and satisfaction of rebuilding our nations,” she said.

Escaping the ravages of the British and the famine in the 19th century, the Irish went on to build America's roads, canals, railways and ports.

They built their schools and hospitals.

From the birth of America, the Irish have fought in the army and stood with Abraham Lincoln to “preserve our union and save our nation”.

A Washington veteran, 79-year-old Pelosi is, as speaker, arguably the most powerful woman in America and her battles with US President Donald Trump have made her an international star.

She certainly was playing to a friendly crowd in Dáil Eireann today as she addressed members, past and present.

Her address was folksy yet focused saying she did not have Irish grandparents but was very proud of her Irish grandchildren Liam, Sean and Ryan who were baptised in Kilquade, Co Wicklow.

She stumbled over some words, most noticeably over her pronunciation of the word Tánaiste which came out as a mangled “tawneeeesta”

But when she spoke on important issues like Brexit, she did not mince her words and her directness was impactful.

She made clear that no trade deal between Britain and the United States which undermines the Good Friday agreement is possible.

She said "we treasure the Good Friday Accord" as a "beacon to the world".

Nancy Pelosi delivered an address in Leinster House this afternoon. Picture: Maxwell Photography/PA Wire
Nancy Pelosi delivered an address in Leinster House this afternoon. Picture: Maxwell Photography/PA Wire

"On that holy day, the world saw the dawn of peace in Northern Ireland that few had dared to dream,” she said in paying tribute to the efforts of political leaders.

“We must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperil the Good Friday Accord, including but not limited to, the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

“We cannot jeopardise that,” she continued. “We must not and will not allow that progress to be undermined.”

The presence of Bono of U2 fame in the visitor's gallery added to the excitement in the air and he was cornered as he waited by former taoiseach Enda Kenny and veteran senator Terry Leyden, who was generous enough to take a selfie with the singer.

Pelosi praised U2 leader Bono for his music and advocacy work saying he represented the best of the Irish.

And, given the number of TDs who fell over themselves to queue to shake his hand, they clearly agreed.

But, as rich and powerful as he may be, he had to play second billing to the real star of the show.

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