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Bush Calls for End of Violence in N. Ireland - 2004-03-17

President Bush is calling for a permanent end to political violence in Northern Ireland.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. And the president used the occasion to talk about a vision of peace.

"We seek a lasting peace for the people of Northern Ireland, a peace that will allow people to live free of terror and intimidation," said President Bush.

Standing side-by-side with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, Mr. Bush said the goal is to create a region that is prosperous and locally governed.

"I call for a permanent end to all political violence," he said. "There is no place for paramilitaries in a democratic society."

Prime Minister Ahern said some progress has been made in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, but much more must be done. He spoke with a bit of a sense of urgency, saying he remains convinced the Good Friday peace agreement signed about six years ago can be fulfilled.

"The priority now is to overcome the remaining challenges and finish the job once and for all," Mr. Ahern said. "[British] Prime Minister Blair and I are, therefore, redoubling our efforts to resolve those issues that remain outstanding so that the promise and potential of the agreement can be fully realized. "

The White House event was one of several held to mark St. Patrick's Day in Washington, with the president and the prime minister traveling to Capitol Hill for a luncheon with congressional leaders.

The two will meet again in late June when President Bush goes to Ireland to attend an EU-U.S. summit. Ireland currently holds the revolving presidency of the European Union.