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Bill Clinton urges Belfast to ensure next generation is free to enjoy peace

Bill Clinton told people to reflect on how far the city had come since the 1998 agreement was struck.

(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)

Bill Clinton accepted the freedom of Belfast with a plea to its citizens to ensure the next generation is free to enjoy peace.

The former US president and senator George Mitchell, the diplomat who brokered the Good Friday Agreement, were both bestowed with the honour on the 20th anniversary of the accord.

Mr Clinton told his audience at the Ulster Hall in Belfast that he had fallen in love with the city in the 23 years since his first visit.

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Good Friday Agreement

He joked about that high-profile occasion, in 1995, when he switched on the Christmas tree lights at City Hall little over a year after the paramilitary ceasefires, and when the peace process was still in its fledgling stages.

“I was terrified the lights would short out and the whole thing would be a metaphor for the failure of the peace process,” he said.

“But in front of tens of thousands of people, the lights came on, the lights came on in Belfast and the lights stayed on.

“Through thick and thin and ups and downs and setbacks and disagreements and governments in and out of Stormont – for 20 years the lights have stayed on.”

He added: “I am glad to finally have the freedom of a place which I did my small part to make free.”

Mr Clinton acknowledged the difficulties presented both by Brexit and the current powersharing impasse at Stormont.

But he urged people to reflect on how far the city had come since the 1998 agreement was struck.

“I will always be grateful I came to Belfast when peace had been made but the city was still troubled,” he said.

“When wise and good and decent people actually had to make a decision to do the right thing, to be the right sort of person, to give children the right sort of future.

“It was a fortune wind that blew me here.

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.
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
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)
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.

“The least George and I can do with our freedom is to plead with you to give the same gift to generations yet to come.”

Mr Mitchell described the award as an honour.

He said his time chairing the Good Friday talks changed his life.

“I have come to know and to greatly admire the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

“To receive this honour from them is very moving and gratifying to me.”

The men became the 83rd and 84th recipients of the Freedom of the City of Belfast.

The event at the Ulster Hall was billed as a celebration of peace.

The ceremony was presented by local author Glenn Patterson and featured music and readings from poets including Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Emma Must and John Hewitt.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Nuala McAllister said: “I am absolutely delighted to be here tonight, marking such an important milestone in our history and recognising the very significant contribution made by President Clinton and senator Mitchell in peacebuilding.

“Both men played an integral role in helping to bring peace to this part of the world, and have always shown great affection towards the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland.

“Along with many other prominent peacebuilders, president Clinton
and senator Mitchell helped to bring our communities together, and paved the way for a brighter future for generations to come.

“Their place in our history is assured by receiving this honour, and both president Clinton and senator Mitchell can be very proud of what they helped us to achieve.”

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