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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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'The Good Friday Agreement was politics that worked because people stopped behaving like politicians'

That is the view of Tony Blair, one of the architects of the deal.

Posted by on Friday, 15 November 2019

THE GOOD FRIDAY Agreement was a victory for politics because politicians acted like people.

That is the view of Tony Blair, one of the architects of the deal, at an event marking the 20th anniversary of the historic peace agreement.

Blair, speaking alongside Bertie Ahern and Bill Clinton, said that the agreement was the result of arduous meetings and a lot of work.

But, he maintained, the world is a better place because of it.

“The important thing is not to compare where we are with where we would ideally like to be. Ideally we would want to be in a better place.

The comparison is where we are and where we were. The important thing is to remember that. Remember when we used to wake up every day to the news of death, destruction, terrorism. Whatever the challenges, this agreement is worth preserving.

“The tensions, divisions and difficulties are still there. Where we are may not be where we want to be but it is a world better than where we once were.”

Blair urged all parties in the North to “give it their all” to protect the agreement and find a way to reestablish the Northern Executive.

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Bertie Ahern, whose mother died during the negotiations, said that the deal represented an important milestone. He thanked Blair and Clinton for their efforts on peace in the North, but joked that Castle Buildings in Belfast, where much of the negotiations took place, was not as nice as some buildings at Blair’s disposal at the time.

All we wanted to do was to give impetus to a process, working with the people, that would cross the relationships without people sacrificing what was special to them.

“There is nothing more important than stopping people being killed, to let people live their lives in the normal way. To see peace.”

Ahern said that issues that have to be resolved in the North cannot be done by a small number of people, but had to be solved “by everyone”.

Clinton said that the decision to become involved wasn’t a complicated one for the US. George Mitchell, who chaired the talks, recounted a story about how Clinton would call him at 3am, unable to sleep, wanting to stay involved with Northern Ireland.

Mitchell said that on the eve of the 1996 Presidential debate, he and Clinton spoke for 90 minutes about the situation.

As the United States, there are two things we can do to help. First we can do our best to maximise the rewards and minimise the risks for those seeking peace. Then, if we’re trusted, we can do our best to listen and close the gaps. That’s what George did.

Clinton said that the North will “figure it out”.

“Keep the Harland and Wolff cranes up, keep the votes free, keep it free.

“You will figure it out.”

Clinton will receive the Freedom of the City of Belfast at an event today, having played an instrumental role in negotiations during the 1990s. Former senator Mitchell was also given the honour.

Last night, Clinton spoke about how the agreement, which he described as a “beacon of hope”, required “sacrifice and compromise”.

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