Ireland’s example as a peacemaker celebrated in Kennedy lecture

Maryland governor spoke warmly about the influence Ireland has had around the globe


No two countries are more bound to each other than the United States and Ireland, the visiting governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley told a Dublin audience last night.

The Irish-American governor – who has been tipped as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 – was at Iveagh House to deliver the “Kennedy Lecture: Reflections on Ireland and America”.

The event was organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs to mark the 50th anniversary of the visit to Ireland by president John F Kennedy in 1963.

During his 15-minute speech, Mr O’Malley spoke warmly about Ireland, the United States, and the challenges both countries had faced in the pursuit of peace.

“There are no two countries more bound to each other,” he said. “Perhaps nowhere in its recent history has Ireland been stronger than as a maker and shaper of peace.”

Great breakthrough

“Peace. We in America look to it and are thankful for it. We know that we can always learn from it. Here in Ireland, it is one of our century’s great breakthroughs. One to be admired, emulated, nurtured.

“While the United States played an important and helpful role, so much of the drive for peace actually came from the hard-working people of this island who saw the necessity of change. You brought peace to life. You raised it from the ground up. You cultivated it. What has been achieved – through the patient work of so many – is something that most thought was impossible.

“And yet, you have dissolved the walls of old hatreds, and made greater room for your children’s future. Peace. ‘A process,’ Kennedy called it. An idea we must continue to wage.”

Of current hardships facing the world – including the threat of climate change about which he spoke at length – Mr O’Malley said adversity is “not our enemy”, but is instead “the catalyst of all human progress”.

Democratic aspirations

“It is suggested by some that a small country can do little in a world that seems increasingly dominated by the very large few. But the reality is that Ireland is often the forerunner of truly democratic aspirations and realisations.

“This is the Irish example that president Kennedy celebrated and extolled during his visit: that a nation and a people need not be large in size, or powerful in force of arms, in order to influence the conscience of the world.”

The event was attended by members of the Kennedy family, America’s former ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, as well as a number of US senators and congressmen.