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Good Friday Agreement at 20: We created a positive narrative for change... and steadily the tide turned in our favour

Quintin Oliver, who organised the Yes campaign for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum, reflects on the battle to convince sceptical voters

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Quintin Oliver, who worked on the Better Together campaign

Quintin Oliver, who worked on the Better Together campaign

Quintin Oliver, who worked on the Better Together campaign

The Good Friday Agreement changed my life. I left my job in the charity sector as director of the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action to run the 'Yes' campaign as a cross-party and non-party movement of persuasion.

We set up what might now be termed a pop-up campaign in rented offices, with volunteer and seconded staff on equal pay of £250 per week, begged and borrowed desks and computers and a huge enthusiasm for our task; we had to appoint a volunteer co-ordinator, for vetting, induction and training, so many were flocking towards us - this was for real, after all, a potential accommodation of unionism and nationalism in fresh, agreed Northern Ireland structures, buttressed by North-South and East-West institutions.

The consent principle was core, the right to be Irish, British or both was novel but simple, what later became Mark Durkan's "ugly scaffolding" (designation as unionist or nationalist, thereby disadvantaging 'others', the rigid D'Hondt formula, the now notorious petition of concern) seemed like necessary protections; the heady words about equality, human rights, integrated education, victims at the centre, women in public life - the end of the conflict was in sight…

Then we faced the tougher challenges as the 11 supporting political parties disagreed on both strategy and tactics, some still refusing to sit together in the same 'peace room', and each wanting to preserve their own funds, identities and media presence in preparation for the first Assembly elections that would shortly follow the May 22 referendum.

Business was lukewarm, following Machiavelli's dictum from 1532 that those who stand to benefit from constitutional change are often least supportive; they feared a negative reaction from their mixed workforces and customer bases; likewise many voluntary groups were concerned that the neutrality that gave them protection during the conflict was too precious to risk by taking sides.

Trade unions were stoically supportive.

The 'No' Campaign was ably led by Ian Paisley's DUP, with a clever slogan: 'It's right to say No' and a lucid negative message strategy, throwing up flak against each part of the Agreement, without having to outline alternatives, and deploying the raw emotion of the conflict with catchphrases emerging like 'Terrorists in Government' and 'Amnesty for Murderers'.

So our solution was to stick rigorously to a compelling 'Vote Yes - it's the way ahead for unionists and nationalists', visualised through smart road sign iconography: the One Way Street for yes, and the No Through Road for no, accompanied by a carefully choreographed 'air' war in the media, and 'ground' war on the streets; we mobilised the parties to work together, sharing platforms and reassuring voters.

We invited celebrities with influence to head up particular events, drawing extra publicity; we briefed and aided women's and community groups to explain and discuss the Agreements trade-offs, and our creative team produced videos for all first-time voters, floated poetry down the River Lagan, threw a huge Yes banner down the Europa Hotel, 'wrote' on the Cavehill and despatched our 'bubble team' with Yes speech bubbles on sticks across the land. Our media team hosted a daily Press conference, framing the day's agenda, and creating a positive narrative for change; we also rebutted opposition charges on victims, prisoner release and decommissioning fears. Artists, musicians, singers and actors came towards us willingly.

At last the tide turned, and the polls moved back up, after suffering enormously from the parading of the IRA Balcombe Street gang in front of a special ard fheis by Sinn Fein, immediately followed by UDA killer Michael Stone's release from prison. Our particular target group of voters - soft unionists - were horrified at these developments. The relentless focused negativity of 'No' was reversed, partly by hope triumphing over fear, the future over the past and confidence over demoralisation, but most of all, we believe, through the dogged determination of conflict weary voters to see through the fear-mongers and opt for a new way ahead.

For me the current gridlock, two decades on, is certainly less than ideal, but the achievements of the Agreement should not be underestimated; power-sharing remains the bedrock for any future accommodation, human rights and equality guarantees have transformed the workplace and the police; parading has been almost solved, with political violence a shadow of its former spectre. We still have progress to make on integration, especially in housing, education and culture; on the economics of the peace dividend, on the legacy of the past and, of course, on genuine reconciliation.

But those ambitions can be addressed by the next generation of leaders at political, business, trade union and community levels. I see that very clearly from my work at Stratagem, the political consultancy I set up, after the referendum, when I discovered that I was all but unemployable - 'too political', employers retorted!

I see it from the international conflict resolution work I am privileged to undertake through Stratagem International around the world's zones of real despair, like Syria, Iraq, the Philippines and even Catalonia in its current imbroglio.

We can certainly move forward with positive consensus.

Quintin Oliver ran the 'Yes' campaign in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum. He now leads www.Stratagem-ni.com and @StratagemINT

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(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)

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 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.

©William Cherry / Presseye

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 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.

©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 Senator George J Mitchell at the Ulster Hall

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

©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.

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.

©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 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

©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 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.

©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 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 & Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister

©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 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.

©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 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.

©William Cherry / Presseye

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

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

©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.

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.

©William Cherry / Presseye

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

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

©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 Josh Burnside singing 'One More'

©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 Micheal Lawson as he reads 'Ceasefire' by Michael Longley

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

©William Cherry / Presseye

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 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.

©William Cherry / Presseye

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 in Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell.

©William Cherry / Presseye

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

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

©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

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

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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 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

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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

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

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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

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

PA

(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

(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

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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

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

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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

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

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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

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

PA

(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

(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

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)

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)

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(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) 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

PA

(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

(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

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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

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

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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

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

PA

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

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

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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)

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)

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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

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

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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)

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)

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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

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

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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: 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)

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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 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)

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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)

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)

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(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)

Belfast Telegraph