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George Mitchell: My one day of success in peace talks

By Deirdre Reynolds

Published 11/04/2016

Visit: Mitchell in Dublin yesterday
Visit: Mitchell in Dublin yesterday

Northern Ireland peacemaker George Mitchell yesterday recalled the "one day of success" that changed the course of Irish history on the 18th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Presidents, poets and peacemakers gathered in the capital for a celebration of Ireland's road from 'Rising to Reconciliation' over the past century.

Speaking at the event at the Abbey Theatre, the former US Senator described the peace talks as "difficult and contentious".

"We had 700 days of failure and one day of success. For that, many people deserve credit, none more so than the political leaders of Northern Ireland, Ireland and the United Kingdom."

President Michael D Higgins, former President Mary Robinson and former Taoiseach John Bruton were among the attendees.

It is almost two decades since the former US Special Envoy chaired the ground-breaking talks that led to the establishment of a power-sharing government at Stormont.

Recalling the "relentless" negotiations during the 1990s, however, Mr Mitchell yesterday confessed that he considered quitting after a year and a half on a flight home to New York.

"I was filled with doubt and despair," he admitted.

"What sense did it make to pursue what was obviously a hopeless task, especially since the reason for this flight home was to be present at the birth of my son."

But he revealed how it was the arrival of his only son Andrew that ironically drove him to "see it through all the way to an agreement". The father-of-three explained: "Late one night I sat watching Andrew sleeping. I then started to think about how different his life would be had he been born a citizen of Northern Ireland.

"This conflict was made and sustained by men and women - it could be ended by men and women and I knew them. All of the doubts I had about my role in Northern Ireland vanished."

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