Video: Nancy Pelosi hails Hume and McGuinness and gets ovation with Heaney quote used by Clinton in Guildhall Square

The third most powerful politician in the United States, Nancy Pelosi, paid tribute to John Hume and the late Martin McGuinness in an address to the Oireachtas this afternoon to make the 100th anniversary of the first Dáil.

By Kevin Mullan
Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 5:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 6:57 pm
Nancy Pelosi addressing the Oireachtas.
Nancy Pelosi addressing the Oireachtas.

The Democrat Speaker of the US House of Representatives recalled to TDs and Senators how Mr. Hume had been a welcome guest in her California home from the 1980s onwards and how Mr. McGuinness had been a regular visitor to her offices at the US Capital over the years.

Mrs. Pelosi received a standing ovation when she ended her address with a quotation from the late Derry poet and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney's 'The Cure at Troy', which the former US President Bill Clinton also quoted during his first visit to Derry 25 years ago.

"Paul and I and our five children were honoured to welcome [John Hume] to our home in San Francisco in the late 1980s.

Nancy Pelosi addressing the Oireachtas.

"He told us that night: 'As we bring down the walls in Belfast we must also bring down the walls in our hearts if we are going to have peace.'

"We were happy to welcome him to our home and with the bravery of our late friend, the extraordinary Martin McGuinness, who I was pleased to welcome to the House of Representatives when I was the top democrat on the US House Committee on Appropriations which had control over funding for the International Fund for Ireland. Martin was a regular visitor.

"Home or 'House' Martin is beloved and missed by many friends in Congress," she said.

The Speaker of the House went on to insist that the Good Friday Agreement that has been championed by both Mr. Hume and the late Mr. McGuinness must not be diluted in any way by Brexit.

"It is an article of faith to us. It is a beacon to the world.

"We must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday accord, including but not limited too, the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland," said the woman who, by order of succession, is third in line for the Presidency of the United States.

Her message of US solidarity with Ireland amid the ongoing Brexit pressures that have threatened the negotiated peace settlement was unambiguous.

"Let me be clear, if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be no chance of a US/UK trade agreement.

"As you face the challenges posed by Brexit know that the United States Congress, Democrats and Republicans, in the House and in the Senate, stand with you.

"Especially now as the first generation born into the hope of Good Friday. Imagine Bono, since that night when you had David Trimble and John Hume at the U2 concert, children born then are 21 years old now, entering their adulthood, knowing peace. We cannot jeopardise that. We must not and we will not allow that progress to be undermined."

Mrs. Pelosi closed her address with a quote from Heaney that her Democrat colleague, Mr. Clinton, also uttered in Guildhall Square on his first visit to Derry on November 30, 1995.

"As the great Seamus Heaney wrote, and this I see all over Ireland: 'The longed-for tidal wave, of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme'.

"Together we can make history rhyme once more."

The Speaker is expected to lead a Congressional delegation, including the Pennsylvanian Democrat Brendan Boyle, whose father was born in Glencolumbkille, to Derry tomorrow.