Media Library




Mr. President, Mrs. Kwasniewska, distinguished guests.

Recalling the generous hospitality which I received when I visited the Republic of Poland in 1994, I am pleased to welcome you as President of a country with which Ireland enjoys the friendliest relations and which will soon be our partner in the European Union.

Poland has a moral right to return to Europe, a right paid for by the sufferings of the Polish people in the past. But one also stemming from Poland's rich contribution to European civilisation and to the development of concepts which are at the heart of the world's democratic systems today. It is fitting to recall on this occasion, the first official visit to Ireland by a President of Poland, some of Poland's landmark contributions to European civilisation and to the development of the democratic idea :

As early as the first half of the fifteenth century the statutes Neminem Captivabimus established the principle of habeas corpus in Poland, although the principle was confined to the nobility at the time;

The fourteenth century Cracow University, where Nicolaus Copernicus developed his discoveries, was one of the earliest of the great seats of learning in Europe;

The Commonwealth of the Gentry (1569-1795) was a seeding-ground for the cultivation of concepts of representative government which only later took root in most other European countries;

It was in Poland, in 1773, that the Parliament established Europe's first Ministry of Education, which, placing emphasis on the education of girls as well as boys, in 20 years organised teacher training colleges, 2 universities, 74 secondary schools and 1600 parish schools;

Poland's power-sharing Constitution of the Third of May 1791, the second written constitution in the world, is one of the great documents of the Enlightenment. For the first time in the political and legal history of Europe the responsibility of the members of the government to parliament was laid down;

In the Second World War the enormous sacrifices of the Polish people and the extraordinary courage of Polish soldiers and partisans fighting in defence of liberty made an unforgettable contribution to the overthrow of totalitarianism in part of Europe;

It was the people of Poland who played a leading role in undermining the Communist system imposed on a large part of Europe after the Second World War. For it was Poland which produced the most powerful human rights movements in Central and Eastern Europe.

Mr. President,

The Irish and the Poles are two peoples who deserve to know each other much better. I believe that we have a genuine empathy for each other. There are many links between our two countries.

As Irishman Bernard O' Connor, who served as personal physician to King Jan III Sobieski in 1694, wrote the first history of Poland in the English language.

Poland's national hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, served as an inspiration for Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen, a political movement bringing together Catholics and Protestants to fight against oppression in 1798.

In the first half of the nineteenth century the works of the Irish poet Thomas Moore influenced some of the great romantic nationalist poets of the period in Poland, including Adam Mickiewicz who translated some of Moore's work into Polish.

A solder of Irish decent, Tytus Jan O' Brien de Lacy, played a prominent military role in the January Rising of 1863-64.

Countess Constance Markiewicz played a prominent part in the Easter Rising of 1916 and was appointed in 1919 as a Government Minister in the Cabinet approved by the First Dáil. It is pleasing that she is commemorated in Poland, where a large primary school in Warsaw has been named after her.

I think it is appropriate also to recall with appreciation that Poland was among the first group of states to establish diplomatic relations with the independent Irish State, sending a Consul General here in 1929.

Today relations between Ireland and Poland are developing steadily. This deepening of bilateral relations is taking place against a background of the consolidation of Poland's democratic system, and the steadfast implementation by successive Polish governments of reforms leading to a modernised market economy. I am glad that Irish enterprises have been able to make a contribution to Poland's remarkable economic transformation in such areas as industrial restructuring, regional development, public administration, tourism development, English language teaching, and the development of social services.

Mr. President,

Poland's Government has recently adopted a National Integration Strategy mapping out the road to Poland's membership of the European Union. The implementation tasks ahead for the Polish Government and people are not easy ones. I would, therefore, like to wish Poland's authorities every success in tackling those tasks. Bon courage!

Conscious of the monumental injustices done to Poland in the past, the Irish people understand Poland's wish to have its security concerns fully met. We share the view that enlargement of the European Union will enhance European stability and confidence to the benefit of all European countries, as well as opening major new opportunities for economic cooperation. We consider that the momentum towards enlargement is now irreversible. During our recent Presidency of the Union we sought to lay the groundwork for concluding in the first half of this year, with a substantial outcome, the intergovernmental conference on the reform of the Union, so that accession negotiations can get underway early in 1998. We continue as an individual Member State to work towards that objective.

Mr. President,

In Ireland we believe that enlargement must take place in a context of the deepening of European integration and maintenance of the Union's key policies. We think it important that the Union's essential nature, characterised by its commitment to mutual solidarity and economic and social cohesion, be maintained. We shall not lose sight of the consideration that enlargement is a historic opportunity for Europe, that the integrity which Europe has recovered following the fall of the Berlin Wall must not be compromised, and that the prize to be sought is enduring peace, security and prosperity in Europe as a whole.

In concluding these remarks I invite you to join in a toast to the President and the people of the Republic of Poland. Naprzód Polsko! (Forward, Poland)