Key peace process figure Mitchell held private talks with the UK over Border fears

Posted By: April 25, 2017

 Mr. Mitchell held talks out of concern for the North 

Colm Kelpie. Irish Independent. Dublin. Tuesday 25,  April 2017

Former US Senator George Mitchell, who helped broker the Good Friday Agreement, has had personal discussions with the British government amid concerns about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland.

But he has ruled out taking on any future mediation role in the North.

In an interview with the Irish Independent from his New York office, Mr. Mitchell said that while he respected the outcome of the UK referendum, he disagreed with Brexit.

He said he shared concerns about the potential economic impact of a return to a hard Border.

“While it will be necessary to figure out a different way, let us hope that it doesn’t mean a resumption of the tight Border controls. I know that the British government is keenly aware of it.

“I’ve had personal discussions with the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and his government is very well aware of the consequences of what happens, and I hope very much that in the course of these discussions they will take that into account,” he said, ahead of his International Human Rights Lecture address, organised by The Mary Robinson Centre, in Ballina, Co Mayo, on Thursday.

Mr. Mitchell said he was in Dublin the day of the referendum vote, and Belfast the following day, and was immediately conscious of the concerns.

The former special envoy to Northern Ireland said he hopes and believes that the parties in the North can resolve their current difficulties, even though the resumption of power sharing in the wake of the March 2 election has proved elusive. A potential deal between the parties is now not likely until after the June 8 UK general election at the earliest.

The Good Friday Agreement, Mr. Mitchell said, while a significant achievement, did not by itself guarantee peace, political stability or reconciliation.

“I said [after the peace agreement was brokered] that there would be many difficult decisions ahead. Indeed the agreement itself explicitly deferred to the future some decisions that we couldn’t resolve at that time,” Mr. Mitchell said.

But he said there was nothing unusual about “domestic controversies in democratic societies.” He cited the potential US government shutdown this week over the country’s budget, Brexit, and the French election.