George Mitchell: Building Peace in Northern Ireland

George Mitchell is an American statesman. He was a U.S. Senator who was appointed by President Clinton to help broker peace in Northern Ireland. He became the architect of the Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998, which ended decades of violent civil war between Catholics and Protestants. (Video Transcript)

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The Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, marked the end of thirty years of civil war in Northern Ireland.

During the “Troubles”, which began in the 1960s, more than 3,500 people were killed on both sides of the conflict. Armed groups on the nationalist side fought for political unity with the rest of Ireland, and armed groups on the unionist side fought for Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Many civilians were caught in the crossfire.

Even before this, there had been a long history of animosity between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland after centuries of British rule. In 1994, the British and Irish governments negotiated a ceasefire between the armed groups, and peace talks began.

George Mitchell had first become involved in Northern Ireland as part of an effort by the White House to boost the local economy. He was soon invited by the British and Irish governments to chair the peace talks.

Senator Mitchell won the respect of all sides for his skill and patience in brokering the landmark Good Friday Agreement in April 1998. This agreement was a historic compromise. For the first time, the two governments, along with parties from across the divide, agreed on a new political framework for Northern Ireland.

Both sides have committed themselves to working together to sustain the peace.

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