THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Belfast, Northern Ireland)
For Immediate Release September 3, 1998 10:45 A.M. EDT
REMARKS BY MIKE MCCURRY
IN READOUT TO THE PRESS
Belfast, Northern Ireland
MR. MCCURRY: (In progress) -- they sat and met with the President and Prime Minister Blair, kind of a small conference room setting, with coffee and crumpets being served upstairs. They met for about 20 minutes. The President began by saying, what can I do to help? And Trimble and Mallon then gave the President a pretty thorough briefing on how this Assembly is coming together, what the immediate steps are that will be required to make it a functioning entity.
Interestingly, they all agreed that the terrorist bombing in Omagh had had almost the precise opposite effect that the people who committed the atrocity probably intended. It really had brought people together, had stimulated discussions, and helped lead to some of the things that are coming together in and around the President's visit here.
Q This is with Trimble and Mallon, too?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. It has been reported here that Trimble is now calling a meeting of all the parties and will likely have some kind of face to face encounter with Adams. But he has not said anything publicly about that. But I think I'd prefer to kind of wait and see how he addresses that issue, which we imagine he probably will a little bit later.
Prime Minister Blair made several points to the President. He said that having the three governments as closely engaged as we have been over the last several weeks is vital to the peace process and that should continue. He asked the President to continue to use our influence to press upon all the parties the need to be supportive of the peace process, to continue on the path that they are on now. He made a special request, which we said we would certainly, do to see if we can isolate any source of financial support in the United States for the fringe elements who are not part of the peace process.
Obviously, the breakaway splinter factions of the IRA do have some source of support and we agreed that we can identify and locate and isolate and eradicate those sources of support in the United States. We would obviously want to do that.
Q Who said that?
MR. MCCURRY: Blair made that point to Clinton.
Q And what was the President's response?
MR. MCCURRY: He fully agreed that we needed to do everything we can to eradicate support for those who espouse violence, because violence, as everyone now agrees, is a thing of the past, gone and done with, to quote one recent statement. And then Prime Minister Blair also stressed the importance of continuing economic aid, noted the work that we have been doing through the International Fund for Ireland. The President took all this in and said he thought it was important for the world to be able to see the progress that they're making, see this peace process moving forward. He asked several questions of David Trimble in particular about how things might unfold in coming days and got a good sense of what the current thinking is of some of the parties about the peace process.
From there, the President then walked on to the Long Hall, and it really is this wonderful long, narrow gallery. It's no wider than this room right here, but it stretches, gosh, at least 400-500 feet down the front of the building. And lined up there we're members of the Assembly from all the parties, kind of clustered in their party groupings. And the President kind of worked his way, he's been working his way down the line now.
About a third of the way down were the representatives of Ian Paisley's party -- he was not there, but his son --
Q Paisley was not there?
MR. MCCURRY: Ian Paisley, Jr. was there and other members of their group. And they had a very animated discussion with the President. I didn't overhear it all, but it was -- each grouping, as he went down the line, people were very engaged.
Q Were they friendly?
MR. MCCURRY: They had things to say and I'm sure they'll be saying them to you soon enough. (Laughter.) But what was interesting was that working the room counter-clockwise was Prime Minister Blair. And then members of our delegation, some of the members of Congress, Senator Mitchell is up there. So it's really fascinating. It looks like a college mixer. They're all kind of talking and scoping each other out.
This is the first time the elected members of this Assembly have all been together in one place at one time. And obviously, as they get prepared for the formal convening of an assembly, they'll have to start getting used to working more closely with each other in the same room.
Q The Sinn was there?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, they were there. They were the last group and I think the President is getting to them just about now.
Q Gerry Adams was there?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Adams was there. They will now go down -- many of them are departing and are going to be down at the Waterfront for the event down there.
Q Is the President aware of the release of the -- yesterday and how upset members of the family of the boys that were killed by them are about this?
MR. MCCURRY: He got a brief briefing on it earlier from Jim Steinberg. Jim Steinberg mentioned it in passing. I don't know if he got the full reaction of the family -- as I've seen those reported. He's aware of some of that.
Q The President stayed on the plane for a while after landing. Was he doing anything particular?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he was getting the last update before we left the plane from Sandy Berger about what we knew at that point about Swiss Air 111. And we still don't have a lot of hard information. I checked on the question of what was going on on search and rescue. The Canadians are handling all of that and, to my knowledge, there's not any U.S. role. We've been in contact with the Canadian government and told them what assets we have -- and could be made available if they needed it. But I don't think there's been a request for any assistance.
Q It appears at this point not to be a terrorist incident?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't make that judgment at this point.
Q Back to here. The short answer to the President's question, what can I do to help -- what was the answer?
MR. MCCURRY: One answer was to remain fully engaged and to use your influence as you have used it to help the parties to make progress. And obviously, given some of the things that unfolded in recent days -- the appointment of a decommissioning contact point by Sinn Fein, Mr. Trimble's announcement of his welcoming of Gerry Adams' statement about a permanent end to violence -- these are things that have come together in and around the President's trip.
You know, when Presidents of the United States travel, it is often an action-provoking journey, and it appears that the President's journey here has helped the parties concentrate their efforts and to make some progress. And that's a good thing and something we obviously welcome.
Q Mike, in this 500-foot hallway, Gerry Adams is there, trimble is there, all those people are there?
MR. MCCURRY: They're all there.
Q They didn't mix?
MR. MCCURRY: Right, they're all kind of in their own clusters.
Q And the clusters didn't cross-pollinate? Okay.
Q That's a frightening thought.
Q It is a frightening thought. When Blair said could you help find a source of funding for those who espouse violence, were any specific people mentioned?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it was a generalized statement that they believe that some of these groups like the "real" IRA do have some sources of support in the United States, and we obviously would -- to the degree we can, and we do have some ability under U.S. law to look into that -- we can try to pursue that. But I'm not aware that they passed on any specific information. I'll double-check just to make sure.
Q There's not some specific information he's acting on?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm --
Q Because the IRA itself, isn't it generally accepted that some of their funding comes from the United States?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've worked very, very hard to discontinue anything that supports violence. Now, Sinn Fein has raised money in the United States and when Gerry Adams has been in the United States in the past he's raised money for his political party. But probably other political parties have raised money in the United States.
Q So that's not considered in the group of people who espouse violence anymore?
MR. MCCURRY: Sinn Fein has made very clear that it has renounced violence as part of what the whole Good Friday agreement is about.