Bill Clinton hails 'genius' of N.Ireland peace deal 20 years on

The lack of violence in Ireland is the lasting legacy of the Good Friday Agreement, according to the Taoiseach.

Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and the remaining living architects of the treaty that ended conflict in Northern Ireland 20 years ago yesterday returned to Belfast to warn that continued peace could not be taken for granted.

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".

Mitchell added he believed the agreement could survive the dangers posed by the United Kingdom pulling out of Europe and creating the EU's only land border between post-Brexit Britain and Northern Ireland, but that "it depends on what you mean by Brexit and how it is applied".

The DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who was part of the Ulster Unionist negotiating team in the run-up to the agreement, said the party's then leader David Trimble was bullied into signing a flawed deal.

The historic Agreement signed by the leaders of the United Kingdom and Ireland on 10 April 1998 established a consensus for peace and the future direction of the region after political conflict had been raging for thirty years. And there are hard questions over how to avoid a hard border with the Republic after Brexit.

The statement came about after a series of lengthy discussions between the organisations and three former leading figures in the Protestant churches in Northern Ireland.

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The row comes on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

"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".

Noting the aims of the Good Friday Agreement - addressing "contentious political problems in the context of decades of violence, divided communities and vast suffering and death" - the Primates acknowledged the complexity of the document, adding that it was also controversial in places.

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

"It's not the first time they've failed".

After the event Mr Clinton and Mr Mitchell received the freedom of the city of Belfast in a special ceremony at City Hall.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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