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George Mitchell: Immense tragedy if peace failed now

George Mitchell has said it would be a "tragedy" were the peace negotiated in the Good Friday Agreement were to collapse
Michael McHugh, Press Association

It would be an "immense tragedy" if the peace process failed now, one of its architects said.

George Mitchell brokered the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and today warned an audience in Belfast that despair fuelled instability as he challenged today's politicians to be brave.

He said: "I urge the current political leaders and the governments in Ireland and the UK to summon the courage and vision that their predecessors summoned in 1998.

"It would be an immense tragedy if the process were to fail now after 20 years.

"Political leaders and the people of Northern Ireland have come too far to risk letting peace slip away."

Stormont has not sat since early last year amid a dispute between the DUP and Sinn Féin over identity issues including the Irish language.

Former US senator Mr Mitchell later became ex-US president Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, but said he would always feel a special bond with Northern Ireland.

He said: "There is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended.

"Conflicts are created and sustained by human beings and they can be ended by human beings."

He added: "No matter how hate-filled, peace can prevail.

"No matter how bleak the outlook, the search for peace must go on."

He received a standing ovation following his address at Queen's University.

He said it was important for politicians to take risks.

"There is now, in Northern Ireland, once again a stalemate - and once again strong courage and political leadership are necessary."

He added: "Leaders must lead.

"They must create an attitude of potential success, they must create the attitude that problems can be solved, that things can be better."

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