Brexit could harm British and Irish co-operation: Good Friday Agreement negotiator Senator George Mitchell
George Mitchell, the American senator who helped broker the Good Friday Agreement, has said Brexit could harm relations between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
The former US Senator George Mitchell said he hoped the UK’s decision to leave the European Union would not stop the establishment of a new power-sharing government after Thursday's crucial vote.
Senator Mitchell, asked if Brexit could "destroy" the Good Friday Agreement, he told Sky News: "I believe that the European Union was an important factor that led the United Kingdom and Ireland to co-operate in establishing a process that led to the Good Friday Agreement and I think the UK being out of the European Union may reduce the prospect for further co-operation."
For four years Senator Mitchell worked with the political parties and the British and Irish governments on the historic 1998 peace accord, refusing to give up until a deal was brokered.
In the past two decades crisis has followed crisis with some calling for a rethink on the devolved institutions.
"We recognised at the time and I said on the day that by itself, the agreement did not assure peace or prosperity or reconciliation. It made them possible," he added.
"So what I said at the time was that it would take many years and many difficult decisions by courageous leaders in Northern Ireland to attain those goals.
"I think everyone anticipated that these arrangements were established to meet the problems and the needs of that time… it is a normal part of the development of every society that over time institutions should be reviewed, processes should be reviewed.
Sen. Mitchell added: "The real heroes of the Northern Ireland peace process were the political leaders of Northern Ireland and the people of Northern Ireland. It is they who made the crucial decisions, not me, not the Prime Ministers, it was those directly involved.
"It's fashionable in all of our societies to criticise, demean, ridicule political leaders and often they deserve it but on that occasion, men and women of great courage rose to the occasion, took a difficult decision in the interest of the people… and that really must never be forgotten.
"I'm an American and proud of it but a very large part of my heart, my emotions and my mind will always be in Northern Ireland," said Sen Mitchell.
Belfast Telegraph Digital