GFA would not have been possible without EU says, ex-Senator Mitchell

Posted By: December 30, 2017

Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, December 30, 2017

George Mitchell said the Good Friday Agreement would not have been possible without the EU.

The chair of the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement has said the accord would not have been possible without the European Union.

Former US Senator George Mitchell said the UK’s vote to leave the EU was a mistake but the referendum result should be respected.

He also voiced hope that Stormont’s power-sharing institutions could be restored, saying he knew at the time of the 1998 agreement that key issues would need to be resolved further down the line.

But Mr. Mitchell also said that the “serious” issues faced by the North’s politicians today were not as difficult as those faced by political leaders 20 years ago.

“I hope and pray that the current leaders of Northern Ireland – of all parties – have the same courage, determination, vision, and commitment to the people of Northern Ireland to resolve their differences,” he said.

The former senator said the European Union played a part in thawing relations between the Republic and Britain, which he said enabled the peace process and was central to the Good Friday Agreement.

“I don’t think the European Union was essential in the [Good Friday Agreement] talks themselves, but I believe the talks would never have occurred had there not been the European Union,” he said in an interview with Radio Ulster’s Talkback.

He said Brexit was a “democratically taken decision which therefore must be respected” but felt that “it will historically prove to be a major error on the part of the people of the UK.”

Mr. Mitchell added that the consequences of Brexit on the island of Ireland could prove to be more intense and negative than in England, Scotland and Wales.

Meanwhile, an Ulster Unionist MLA has called for all-party talks to resolve the political impasse.

Lagan Valley representative Robbie Butler said reports that talks would be convened before the end of next week were to be welcomed.

However, he said it was not acceptable to exclude Stormont’s smaller parties.

“The DUP and Sinn Féin have had almost 12 months to resolve their differences, and they have failed miserably,” Mr. Butler said.

“People right across Northern Ireland are suffering, and some politicians have the cheek to talk about defending the vulnerable,” he said.

“The vulnerable are in our hospitals and our schools, and they have been abandoned to their fate.”