Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

20th anniversary of Good Friday Agreement

20th anniversary of Good Friday Agreement

Speaking at a conference in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the historic peace accord, the former USA president urged the people of Northern Ireland to "inspire" the world again.

Former US president Bill Clinton, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will be among those marking the 20th anniversary.

Mr Clinton shared a panel discussion with former United Kingdom prime minister Tony Blair and Irish taoiseach Bertie Ahern - some of the biggest players involved in forming the historic agreement.

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"In the process, remind the world that democracy is better than dictatorship".

But the collapse early past year of the power-sharing administration at the heart of that deal meant there was no devolved government to greet them - and little sign of the province's Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists resolving the differences that have again divided them. "You do smart things".

He said: "Let me make it clear, we are going to overcome that challenge and we should overcome it because preserving this agreement is really, really important". And there are hard questions over how to avoid a hard border with the Republic after Brexit.

Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the talks which led to the historic accord, also urged the region's current political leaders to take inspiration from the "courage and vision" shown in 1998.

The Good Friday Agreement largely ended the 30-year sectarian conflict which claimed more than 3,000 lives.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to do a deal with the region's largest pro-British party, the Democratic Unionists, to prop up her government has fanned nationalist rhetoric.

The accord included the early release of around 500 paramilitary prisoners within two years even though IRA arms had not yet been destroyed.

However, he maintained that the Good Friday Agreement was robust enough to weather the challenges of Brexit and that a solution would be easy.

He said: "The real heroes of the Agreement were the people of Northern Ireland and their political leaders".

Paramilitaries undertook to destroy weapons and the IRA did so in 2005.

Senator Mitchell added: "The current problems in Northern Ireland are hard, they are serious and they must be resolved but at the same time we should not hold Northern Ireland to a higher standard to everywhere else in the world".

It has since served as a blueprint for how to solve conflict around the world.

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