Numerous political figures played critical roles in securing the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. I’ve always most appreciated the work of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the negotiations.
Here’s his 15th anniversary reflection, from the Belfast Telegraph:
It was a difficult experience but one that ultimately produced what I think is a good result.
When the agreement was reached I said publicly on that day and in the days that followed that in itself it did not guarantee peace or political stability or reconciliation but rather it made them possible.
Whether they would occur would depend upon the courage and commitment of the political leaders and people of Northern Ireland.
As we all know of course there were many problems, setbacks, issues over the past 15 years but they have worked hard to resolve them and I certainly believe, and I hope most people do, that Northern Ireland is a better place as a result of the agreement.
It’s undeniable not every issue has been resolved or problem solved. I also think it’s important not to hold Northern Ireland to an unrealistic standard that no other society meets. Every society has its problems.
We’ve got plenty of problems here in the United States, there are problems in other parts of the United Kingdom, there are plenty of problems in Ireland and the European Union and you could go all around the world and say the same thing.
On balance, I think Northern Ireland has made progress and I feel very honoured to have been part of it. I still come back to Northern Ireland often. I’m an American and proud of it but a large part of my heart and my emotions will always be in Northern Ireland and with the people there.
Readers interested in learning more about Mitchell’s role in Northern Ireland should pick up a copy of his 1999 book, Making Peace.