Belfast Telegraph

Voices from America bring enthusiasm, a challenge and real hope, say audience

By Victoria Leonard

Speeches by President Clinton and Senator Mitchell on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement were a "challenge" to today's politicians to deliver a lasting peace, members of the audience have said.

While some of those who listened to the American politicians' oratory in the Ulster Hall hadn't even been born when the 1998 accord was signed, others recalled hoping that their own children would grow up in a peaceful society.

Regardless of age, all agreed that it was now time for current politicians to finally deliver on the hope inspired by the two decades-old deal.

Project Children worker Monica Culbert (68), whose organisation used to send children from Northern Ireland to America and now runs an internship programme for students, said the speeches were a "challenge for people to keep going with the peace process".

"It's not finished, we've had ups and downs," she said. "President Clinton was challenging us. Hopefully it will inject new momentum into the talks."

Fellow Project Children worker Sally Brennan (69) added: "Put some momentum into the peace process and let's get back around the table. We're 20 years on, let's finish it now, don't be coming back here in another 20 years and listening to the same thing."

For 18-year-old Methody students Connor Kelly and Owen McElhinney, born two years after the agreement, the speeches were an insight into the history of the peace process.

Connor said: "It's very interesting to see President Clinton's involvement in how great it was in what did happen and how important he was in the peace process.

"I think it definitely brought some enthusiasm, it will definitely reinvigorate the talks."

Fellow student Owen said the Stormont impasse made him feel "frustrated".

He added: "It really puts things into perspective and shows how hard people had to work to bring Belfast and Northern Ireland into what it is today. People just need to work hard, set differences aside, because that's how the Good Friday Agreement came about.

Father-of-two Michael Mulhern (42) said there was a "need to recapture some of the spirit they had when they were forging the Good Friday Agreement".

Belfast woman Siobhan Martin commented: "The speeches brought back the enormity of what was achieved 20 years ago. I'm just hoping that our politicians today are taking note and will move us another step forward again."

Belfast Telegraph

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