Senator Mitchell Good Friday Agreement


“It`s a warm memory of the last day. But as I have often said, on this day of success, we had about 700 days of failure. It was a long and hard grumpy. I have had three separate negotiations over a five-year period, so I have a great memory of Northern Ireland. I went there a lot, I spent a lot of time there. It`s a really great place. People are great, they are energetic, productive… something confrontational and argumentative, but no one is perfect. Northern Ireland`s heads of state and government have shown tremendous courage and vision to reach this agreement in a very difficult and dangerous context, and so far peace has been maintained.

On the problems facing the Northern Ireland Assembly, an institution created as part of the agreement, “the main victim of a hard border will be the Irish people, the Republic of Ireland. The British who made this decision – and a democratic vote that must be respected – will suffer because democracy does not guarantee a good result, it guarantees a fair trial, and I think history will show that the United Kingdom made a fundamental mistake in adopting Brexit. They will be hurt, but the people who will be really hurt will be the Republic of Ireland because their economy is fully integrated with that of the United Kingdom. You`re going to suffer. The negotiations that preceded the agreement lasted 700 days, more than a year having spent sketching only the procedures and the agenda. One of the keys to Mitchell`s success was the use of the “Mitchell Principles” or preconditions for negotiations, which involved a commitment to non-violence, open communication and democracy. Mitchell also adopted a “sufficient consensus” rule that allowed parties to vote against part of a proposal, while voting for the proposal as a whole. On 10 April 1998, Senator George J. Mitchell announced that an agreement had been reached between the British and Irish governments and most of northern Ireland`s political parties on how Northern Ireland should be governed.

In addition to dealing with recalcitrant politicians who oppose any form of agreement, he has shown skill in dealing with allies who can sometimes be more difficult than opponents. The British Minister for Northern Ireland, Dr Mo Mowlam, paid tribute to his technique: “He would never say no to my idea because he knew I would do it anyway. But he said, “Now, Mo, have you thought about that?” and ten minutes later I changed my mind. On the question of whether he thinks the agreement would last another 20 years later: “The day I announced the agreement, I said it was a historic achievement. But I also said that day that the agreement alone does not guarantee peace, political stability or reconciliation. There would be difficult choices along the way for other leaders, and there have been. This is not the first time the Assembly has failed. In 1999, a little over a year after the agreement, the assembly collapsed, and the Prime Minister and President Clinton asked me to come back — this was my third mission there — and I spent several months, we reassured her. Since then, there have been huge controversies.

Negotiators must also have the wisdom to recognize when they are ahead, and then good judgment to stop at this point.