Belfast Telegraph

George Mitchell: Northern Ireland politicians must find solutions

By Brett Campbell

The former US special envoy to Northern Ireland who chaired the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement has called on politicians to come up with new answers to fresh problems.

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, George Mitchell said it would be useful for everyone to reflect on the significance of the historic Agreement 20 years on, at a time when Stormont remains collapsed and the possibility of a hardened Irish border looms..

"The tragedies of the past have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering," he said.

"We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families - but we can best honour them through a fresh start".

The former US senator, who has formally been awarded the Freedom of the City of Belfast along with President Bill Clinton for their instrumental role in ending the conflict, has called on political leaders in Belfast, London and Dublin to "rekindle the spirit of partnership and mutual respect" that led to the 1998 Agreement.

Mr Mitchell also urged the British and Irish governments, along with the political parties here, to "recall and heed the powerful and moving words" of those who supported the establishment of the peace process two decades ago.

They include former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his predecessors Albert Reynolds and John Bruton, along with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his forerunner, John Major.

Mr Mitchell also praised Bill Clinton, who made securing peace here a top priority of the US administration's foreign policy goals, but he said the people and leaders of Northern Ireland were the "real heroes" who changed the course of history.

"The people supported the effort to achieve agreement and afterward they voted overwhelmingly to ratify it," he said.

"Their political leaders, in dangerous and difficult circumstances, after lifetimes devoted to conflict, summoned extraordinary courage and vision and reached agreement at great risk to themselves, their families, and their political careers."

The US lawyer, author, businessman and former politician reiterated his total opposition to the use or threat of violence in pursuit of any political aims and said the Agreement's role in "ending the sectarian violence that plagued Northern Ireland for so much of it's history" should not be overlooked in ongoing Brexit negotiations.

"The UK Government and the European Union have publicly committed themselves to a Brexit outcome that does not re-establish a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland," he said.

"We must accept and support and insist on that outcome."

 

Belfast Telegraph

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