Mitchell praises Northern leaders


POLITICAL LEADERS in Northern Ireland deserved “great and eternal credit” for their role in ending the conflict, former US senator George Mitchell has said.

The former chairman of the talks that led to the Belfast Agreement also praised former British prime minister Tony Blair and former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who he said were “brilliant in bringing the process to a conclusion”.

However, he added: “They would be the first to acknowledge that their predecessors on both sides laid the foundation for that.”

Northern politicians showed “great courage and determination in bringing this [conflict] to an end, in a circumstance that was risky for them. “They performed in an extraordinary way that brought an end to the violence and brought peace to their war-torn land and so for that they deserve great and eternal credit.”

Mr Mitchell was speaking to The Irish Times after addressing the Institute of International and European Affairs on his subsequent role as US special envoy for Middle East peace, from January 2009 to May 2011.

This afternoon Mr Mitchell takes part in a conference at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on the Northern Ireland peace process and possible lessons for conflict resolution in other regions. He will meet the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement earlier.

The Kilmainham conference is hosted by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore as part of Ireland’s current chairing of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.