Freedom of Belfast proposed for Bill Clinton and George Mitchell

Tue, 27/03/2018 - 13:14 -- Editor

Proposing to Award the Freedom of Belfast City to President William Jefferson Clinton and Senator George Mitchel, SDLP West Belfast Councillor Tim Attwood said:

“It is my pleasure, and honour to nominate President William Jefferson Clinton and Senator George Mitchell for Freedom of the City of Belfast in recognition of their role in the peace process.

"There has been a long and cherished partnership with the United States. Indeed, there have been 10 Presidents of the United States who have Irish ancestry including a number from Northern Ireland.

“In my view, this partnership was at its strongest 20 years ago when the Good Friday Agreement was signed with the support of the US administration.

“Both Senator George Mitchell and President Bill Clinton played hugely important and significant roles in delivering the peace accord.

“Senator George Mitchell was seen as the honest broker between all sides in the talks process. He won admiration from across the political divide in Northern Ireland for the careful, patient way he chaired the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement on April 10 1998.

“He steered the talks process through difficult and challenging time and at some considerable personal cost, away from home at a time of family bereavement and when his wife was pregnant.

“But after a final 36 hours of non-stop negotiations, he led the parties to an agreement on 10 April 1998.

“As Seamus Mallon said of George Mitchell: ‘His patience, skill and deep humanity eased us through the darkest days ­ and nights ­ and led us quite literally into the morning light of Good Friday’.

“Another person who was a constant on the road to peace, was President Bill Clinton who gave his unwavering commitment to achieving peace even before he was elected President in 1992. Indeed, I was a young volunteer on the Clinton Gore campaign in Pasadena, California. The campaign was full of vitality and fun.

“Who will ever forget the excitement of his first visit to Belfast City Hall in the autumn of 1995. The North came to a standstill as we listened to the hopes and ambitions of two primary school kids in the Mackies site, watched him charm and inspire the excited crowds in City Hall and the Guildhall.

“At critical times in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and since he has used flattery, persuasion, arm twisting and midnight phone calls to encourage people over the line and break deadlocks.

“His efforts and support was rewarded in the early years of April 10 1998. However, he realised that Agreement was not the end but only the beginning. Ever since he has asked tough questions and continued to ask all parties to take risks for lasting peace.

“As President Clinton said in Armagh in 1998 are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago: "In this peace process, there will be false steps and disappointments. The question is not if the peace will be challenged. You know it will. The question is, how will you respond when it is challenged?’

“He went on to say it is never too late for a new beginning. you will be tested again and again, but a God of grace has given you a new beginning.

‘Now you must make the most of it, mindful of President Kennedy's adage that "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own.’  it is never too late for a new beginning.’

“I wish to propose these two remarkable men for Freedom of City for their efforts in supporting peace in NI”