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The President of the Republic at the Festive Dinner Hosted in the honour of Mrs Mary McAleese, the President of the Republic of Ireland on May 24, 2001

Dear Mrs. Mary McAleese, President of the Republic of Ireland,
Dear Dr. Martin McAleese,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please accept my heartfelt good wishes upon your state visit to the Republic of Estonia.

You are the first Irish Head of State to visit our country. This can be considered as a significant interim summary of the joint work done by the Republic of Ireland and the Republic of Estonia to promote their mutual relations.

Ireland recognised the Republic of Estonia soon after the end of the Soviet occupation, namely on August 27, 1991. Already in October that year, the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs paid a visit to Estonia. Regular relations on the ministerial and experts level have created opportunities for efficient co-operation in the field of culture and economy; undoubtedly, the continuation and growing pace of such co-operation will be enhanced by the political will of this distinguished meeting.

In all this, we may also proceed from traditions dating back to the ancient Viking times. Yet if we limit ourselves to our times, it is worth mentioning that the Vice Consulate of Estonia was opened in Dublin already in 1927. Today, the Estonian Embassy to the Republic of Ireland is still at Ailesbury Road, where the Consulate was opened in 1927.

The Republic of Estonia highly appreciates the clearly positive attitude of the Republic of Ireland towards the enlargement of the European Union. The Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign Minister of your government, have clearly expressed their unequivocal support to Estonia's membership. Ireland has shown her readiness to share her EU integration experiences with Estonia, and has also done so. And the best way of sharing the Irish experience is your true success in the European Union, obvious not only to the economists, but also to a common citizen.

In the Estonian society, the integration process has become a question of great actuality. For Europe, it has become a touchstone of political ethics. In the euphoria of the fall of totalitarianism it all seemed so simple, and Europe welcomed her prodigal sons with unequivocal enthusiasm. Today, the actual restoration of Europe's unity has in several minds been entangled in the level-headed calculation that the status quo is always more convenient than the possible surprises of change.

Both the Estonians and Irish the have a proverb: measure seven times, then cut once. And yet this great wisdom of life does certainly not mean that we can measure forever. Our firm reply to infinite measuring is that Europe is a whole and her security is indivisible.

The 20th century taught us several painful lessons about that. The sole conclusion can be the unity of European countries that recognise democratic values.

I am glad to see that Ireland strongly supports us in this opinion.

Proceeding from the above, dear Mrs. President, I assure you that on this state visit, you will be met with affection and curiosity.

These feelings are born of the similarity of the histories of our peoples, of the Estonians' respect towards the Irish culture, literature, dance and music; towards the Irish spirit.

The unusual spirit and charm of Irish literature is national in its essence. Yet already for centuries, it has exceeded the national borders, and left its mark to Europe and the whole world. It is indeed a powerful cultural phenomenon. When Europe will convene in Dublin on June 16, 2004, in order to tread in the footsteps of James Joyce, then it will be because the literature of the 20th century started with Joyce.

The double sculpture in Tartu, our university capital, which depicts Oscar Wilde and our literary classic Eduard Vilde sitting side by side, has become a sightseeing spot. It is my pleasure to present to you a small copy of this sculpture. In the future, the people of Tartu plan to send a full-sized copy of this sculpture to Dublin. This will show our love and respect, and the sense of unity of our two peoples.

Mrs. President, I think that when proceeding from these very feelings, our two countries still have many opportunities to quicken our mutual relations on the so-called grassroots level. Mutual exchange of research specialists, long-term sojourn programmes for artists, and many more similar things help us to shape new Europe.

I would like to conclude my greeting with a little moving story. Recently, brave young Estonians sailed around the world on the yacht called "Lennuk". We are both seafaring nations, and you can obviously see how important such enterprises are to the spirits of a nation. On the voyage home, a message in a bottle was cast to sea from the "Lennuk" somewhere near Plymouth. Six weeks later, Nick Massett, an inhabitant of the city of Dingle, was taking his usual walk with the dolphin Fungie. As the water was still cold, he was walking along the coast when the dolphin became agitated and pointed at a place on the beach. This was where Nick found the bottle with the Estonians' message.

Mrs. President, Dr. McAleese - our oceans are still full of such as yet unopened messages in a bottle. Some of them, I hope, will also be expecting you on dry land today, tomorrow, and the day after, on this visit to get to know Estonia. Therefore, besides the joy of discovery, let me wish you success and happiness to the greater good of Ireland and Estonia.

The people of Estonia, our leaders, my spouse and I raise our glasses to the health of the President of the Republic of Ireland and her spouse, and to the honour of the Republic of Ireland!


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