Belfast Telegraph

I’m sad and angry at Northern Ireland politics, says architect of Good Friday Agreement

‘It is the future we should be looking at,’ said Seamus Mallon.

Former NI deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Former NI deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Good Friday AgreementTony Blair and Bill Clinton at Queen’s University in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

One of those who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement has said he is sad and angry at the state of politics in Northern Ireland.

In a stinging attack, former SDLP deputy first minister Seamus Mallon, who helped broker the 1998 peace accord, claimed the two biggest parties at Stormont had created political silos, debasing the process and “almost Balkanising” the country.

He said: “Am I sad? Yes. Am I angry? Yes, very angry.

“Especially when I watch television sitting in my house, just me and the dog, and I watch the hypocrisies which are unbelievable and the untruths which are believable.

“Politics has been debased and diminished by these two political silos which have almost Balkanised the Northern Ireland that I live in.

“It is the future we should be looking at.”

Mr Mallon was among those taking part in a major event to mark the 20th anniversary of the deal at Queen’s University Belfast.

(L-R) Jonathan Powell, Monica McWilliams, Lord John Alderdice, Seamus Mallon, Lord David Trimble, Bertie Ahern, Sir Reg Empey, Senator George J. Mitchell, Paul Murphy and Gerry Adams pose for a photo on the 20th Anniversary of the signing of The Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement was signed on this day 20 years ago. Northern Ireland's present devolved system of government is based on this agreement and was a major part of the 1990's peace process. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
(L-R) Jonathan Powell, Monica McWilliams, Lord John Alderdice, Seamus Mallon, Lord David Trimble, Bertie Ahern, Sir Reg Empey, Senator George J. Mitchell, Paul Murphy and Gerry Adams pose for a photo on the 20th Anniversary of the signing of The Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement was signed on this day 20 years ago. Northern Ireland's present devolved system of government is based on this agreement and was a major part of the 1990's peace process. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ceremony held in historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell.
Ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured President Bill Clinton & Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall sign the Freedom document in front of Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister and elected members.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council.Pictured Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall
A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured President Bill Clinton & Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall sign the Freedom document in front of Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister and elected members.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured President Bill Clinton
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured President Bill Clinton & Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall sign the Freedom document in front of Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister and elected members.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured President Bill Clinton & Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured President Bill Clinton & Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall sign the Freedom document in front of Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister and elected members.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured President Bill Clinton & Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall sign the Freedom document in front of Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister and elected members.
Ceremony held in Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. Pictured President Bill Clinton & Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall sign the Freedom document in front of Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister and elected members. Pic William Cherry Presseye
A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured President Bill Clinton & Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall sign the Freedom document in front of Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister and elected members.
Ceremony held on Tuesday in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured is Josh Burnside singing 'One More'
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A ceremony has been held this evening (Tuesday) in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. Pictured is Micheal Lawson as he reads 'Ceasefire' by Michael Longley
Ceremony held on Tuesday in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell.
Ceremony held in Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell.
Ceremony held on Tuesday in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th April 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President Bill Clinton at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Lord John Alderdice (left) and Peter Robinson during an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Lord David Trimble at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Senator George Mitchell during an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
(back row left to right) Jonathan Powell, Lord John Alderdice, Lord David Trimble, Sir Reg Empey, Lord Paul Murphy of Torfaen and (front row left to right) Professor Monica McWilliams, Seamus Mallon, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Senator George Mitchell and Gerry Adams, at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Ireland's foreign minister Simon Coveney speak to the media at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Jonathan Powell and Senator George Mitchell (left) at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Senator George Mitchell (right) at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
(Top L-R) Former first minister of Northern Ireland Bertie Ahern, former leader of the Ulster Unionist party Reg Empey, former Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy (bottom L-R) former Irish Premier Bertie Ahern, former US special envoy George Mitchell and former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams pose at an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Good Friday agreement at Queen's University in Belfast on April 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Paul FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 10: Senator George Mitchell attends an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Queens university on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The event, 'Building Peace: 20 years on from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement' has been organised by the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
(back row left to right) Lord David Trimble, Sir Reg Empey, Lord Paul Murphy of Torfaen (obscured), (front row left to right) Professor Monica McWilliams, Seamus Mallon, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Senator George Mitchell and Gerry Adams, at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
(back row left to right) Sir Reg Empey, Lord Paul Murphy of Torfaen, (front row left to right) Seamus Mallon, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Senator George Mitchell and Gerry Adams at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Former US President Bill Clinton at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
DUP leader Arlene Foster during an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and former US president Bill Clinton attend a special event to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast on April 10, 2018. Twenty years after Northern Ireland's landmark peace agreement, former British premier Tony Blair has recalled how close talks came to collapse -- and warned it risks being undermined by Brexit. "I did not know if we were going to get an agreement until literally minutes before it happened," Blair said, ahead of a visit to Belfast to mark Tuesday's anniversary of the 1998 Good Friday accords. / AFP PHOTO / Paul FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 10: Former US President Bill Clinton holds (R) hands with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as they attend an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Queens university on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland's present devolved system of government is based on this agreement and was a major part of the 1990's peace process. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and former US president Bill Clinton attend a special event to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast on April 10, 2018. Twenty years after Northern Ireland's landmark peace agreement, former British premier Tony Blair has recalled how close talks came to collapse -- and warned it risks being undermined by Brexit. "I did not know if we were going to get an agreement until literally minutes before it happened," Blair said, ahead of a visit to Belfast to mark Tuesday's anniversary of the 1998 Good Friday accords. / AFP PHOTO / Paul FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 10: Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald sits alongside vice president Michelle O'Neill as they attend an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Queens university on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland's present devolved system of government is based on this agreement and was a major part of the 1990's peace process. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and former US president Bill Clinton attend a special event to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen's University in Belfast on April 10, 2018. Twenty years after Northern Ireland's landmark peace agreement, former British premier Tony Blair has recalled how close talks came to collapse -- and warned it risks being undermined by Brexit. "I did not know if we were going to get an agreement until literally minutes before it happened," Blair said, ahead of a visit to Belfast to mark Tuesday's anniversary of the 1998 Good Friday accords. / AFP PHOTO / Paul FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 10: In this handout photo provided by Press Eye, singers perform at a ceremony held this evening in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. (Photo by William Cherry/Presseye via Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 10: Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (L) speaks while alongside Lord John Alderdice at a panel discussion event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Queens university on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The event, 'Building Peace: 20 years on from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement' has been organised by the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 10: Former US President Bill Clinton (R) along with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair attend an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Queens university on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The event, 'Building Peace: 20 years on from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement' has been organised by the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

His former powersharing partner, ex Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, struck a more optimistic note, saying he believed “there was a good chance” of devolution returning this year.

But Lord Trimble conceded that “prediction” was a difficult thing.

He also claimed Brexit was being used by some to undermine the Agreement.

Lord Trimble said: “Brexit is one thing – the Agreement is completely different. There is no interaction between them at all.

“But what is happening at the moment is some people are trying to use Brexit to undermine the Agreement and I hope they are unsuccessful.”

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Lord Trimble speaks at the event (Brian Lawless/PA)

Former US president Bill Clinton, ex-British prime minister Tony Blair and former Irish taoiseach Bertie Ahern also attended the conference at Queen’s.

Mr Ahern said the Agreement would be a connection between the British and Irish governments post-Brexit.

He said: “I think the Good Friday Agreement will now form the impetus for the British and Irish governments to meet – I would suggest every quarter – to build and continue relationships that Brexit has ruined and damaged.”

He said it was important for ministers and civil servants to “collaborate” on “major issues”.

“The Good Friday Agreement, although we didn’t intend it at the time, I think that now can replace that relationship.

“As far as Brexit is concerned, and hard border, soft border, sunny side up border, every kind of border – there can be no border.

“It will not be acceptable in any event,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell said the strength of the Good Friday Agreement had “served” Northern Ireland, the UK and island of Ireland well over the past 20 years.

But he cautioned that it now faced two threats.

Mr Powell said: “One internal threat – which is the failure to get the Executive up and running.

“And that threat must be met and that does require real commitment by Number 10 Downing Street and the Taoiseach.

“The Brexit challenge – the external challenge – is also a very serious one.

“Both governments and the EU are committed to no hard border, but the question is: how do you avoid a hard border?

“And a series of contradictory commitments were made in December and there is no logical easy way to meet all of those.”

He said he could not see any way of avoiding a hard border other than Britain remaining in, at least, the Customs Union.

Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also took part in the discussions.

He expressed confidence that Northern Ireland’s future was “bright” despite the current political impasse.

“The institutions will be back in place,” he said.

“The Good Friday Agreement remains the accord which is going to guide politics on this island and arrangements on this island and relationships on this island into the foreseeable future.

“I think the future is very bright. There is always an ebb in a process. There is always an ebb and a flow.

“We are in an ebb, it is temporary.”

Meanwhile, speaking ahead of the event, former DUP first minister Peter Robinson, who initially opposed the Agreement, said Brexit had the potential to cause “considerable disruption” to politics.

He said: “We have to deal with it in a way that causes as little disruption to our political process and it has the capacity to cause considerable disruption.

“I just trust the politicians of the day, and I am talking principally of the Prime Minister, are capable of negotiating an outcome that resolves some of these issues without some of us having to start putting up flags in order to show how British or how Irish we are in Northern Ireland.

“I think it is possible to do it.”

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