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Good Friday Agreement: Clinton visit marks anniversary

Good Friday Agreement: Clinton visit marks anniversary

"The Good Friday Agreement is the work of genius that's applicable if you care at all about preserving democracy", Clinton said of the deal signed on April 10, 1998, marking the end to a conflict lasting three decades.

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.

Former US Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the talks, will be among the guests in Belfast.

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

However, veteran U.S. politician and diplomat George Mitchell added he also believed the agreement, which turns 20 years old this week, will still survive any post-Brexit turbulence.

"Doing that is one of the most important things we can achieve for the people of Northern Ireland 20 years on from the Good Friday agreement", Mitchell said.

The historic agreement, which was signed on April 10, 1998, was reached after several years of talks between political parties and nearly 30 years of violence.

He said: "The government of the United Kingdom and the European Union have both publicly committed that any Brexit agreement they reach will not include the restoration of a hard border".

Labour former shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith said the remarks were "reckless".

"The Good Friday Agreement remains a triumph of the politics of hope over despair", she said.

There were also controversial proposals on the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, the future of policing in Northern Ireland, and the early release of paramilitary prisoners.

The ex-diplomat who also worked on peace accords in the Middle East and Bosnia said that despite the protectionism and Trump administration's America First policies, Washington politicians would still back U.S. investment in Northern Ireland.

Prof James McElnay, the university's acting vice-chancellor, said: "His role and influence on the peace process in Northern Ireland was pivotal to ensuring all parties reached agreement in April 1998". Allied to this are dysfunctional political institutions which have failed to deliver any meaningful improvement in the quality of life for the people they supposedly serve.

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


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