Politicians mark 10th anniversary of Northern Ireland peace deal
(dpa) - Leading figures involved in negotiating the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement gathered in Belfast Thursday to mark the 10th anniversary of the accord that laid the foundation for an end to 30 years of sectarian strife in the British-administered province.
The so-called Good Friday Agreement, brokered by US peace negotiator George Mitchell, among others, was signed in Belfast on April 10, 1998. It paved the way for a power-sharing administration between British Unionists and Irish Nationalists.
However, two of the main players, Britain's ex-prime minister Tony Blair and former US president Bill Clinton, were unable to attend Thursday's event.
Among those attending were Mitchell, Canadian general John de Chastelain, who oversaw the arms decommissioning process, and Bertie Ahern, the outgoing leader (Taoiseach) of the Republic of Ireland.
In a message, Clinton said the accord had paved the way for political stability in Northern Ireland.
"I think that everybody who was part of the Agreement knows that they did it. They know in their bones that they struck a blow for a better future for their kids," said Clinton.
Blair said the deal had inspired people across the world. "They see it as a real beacon of hope for other such conflicts, they think it is amazing that it's happened," he said.
"I think it is a really great symbol of how the world changes so fast and can throw up the opportunity to settle conflicts that seemed irresolvable for decades, centuries even," said Blair.
But in a sign that peace in Northern Ireland remains fragile, the province's outgoing Protestant First Minister (head of regional government), Ian Paisley, boycotted the conference.
His deputy, Martin McGuinness of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein, also missed out on the event due to a visit to the US.