Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Tony Blair receives Liberty Medal human rights award for Northern Ireland work

'Liberty is not acquired by accident. It's won by endeavour'

Former US President Bill Clinton (C), along with National Constitution Center's president David Eisner (R), presents former Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) the 2010 Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center September 13, 2010 in Philadelphia
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair at his first book signing in Dublin on Saturday
A youth is arrested at gunpoint by a Paratrooper in Derry on Bloody Sunday Picture by Fred Hoare

Former prime minister Tony Blair has received the Liberty Medal, one of the highest private honours in the US, for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

The medal is given annually by the Philadelphia-based National Constitution Centre to individuals or organisations whose actions strive to bring liberty to people worldwide. Former US president Bill Clinton presented the award at an outdoor ceremony on Independence Mall.

Mr Blair was honoured for his work with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which promotes religious tolerance, for his initiative to improve governance in Africa, and for advancing peace in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, among other efforts.

The event comes amid a publicity tour for Mr Blair's best-selling memoir A Journey, which was released on September 1. The autobiography re-energised British and Irish anti-war protesters, who continue to blast Mr Blair for supporting the US invasion of Iraq. A hostile crowd threw shoes and eggs at him at a book-signing in Dublin this month, and he cancelled a similar event in London for fear of disruption.

Mr Blair received a much warmer reception in Philadelphia from the friendly crowd of about 1,250.

Mr Clinton, the centre's chairman, praised Mr Blair at the ceremony for being a "wonderful world citizen" and "living a life worthy of this award".

"His faith foundation is promoting religion as a powerful force for good and reconciliation," Mr Clinton said. "Tony Blair believes that people of faith can be people of peace."

Mr Blair said liberty is the result of "ordinary human beings doing extraordinary things in the midst of Earth-changing events."

"Liberty is not acquired by accident," Mr Blair said. "It's won by endeavour."

The ceremony included a performance by The Irish Tenors and a video tribute from U2 frontman Bono, who received the medal in 2007. He praised Mr Blair for his work securing the Good Friday accord in 1998 to end sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. "Tony Blair understands the word 'compromise' better than most," Bono said.

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