Bill Clinton hails 'genius' of N.Ireland peace deal 20 years on

Kristina O'Hara will collect a medal in Queensland

FORMER US President Bill Clinton will speak in Belfast later today to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The peace deal's explicit rejection of the use or threat of violence, together with its emphasis on the principles of "partnership, equality and mutual respect" as the "basis of relationships" within these islands, has continuing potential to transform society and life for all, the two church leaders stated.

"The Irish peace was born out of weariness of children dying and of lost chances", he said.

The gathering at the Ulster Hall in Belfast began with music, poetry readings, and songs from an all-women choir clad in green gowns, before Mr Clinton told his audience that he had fallen in love with the city in the 23 years since his first visit.

"The further you get away from that, the easier it is to take the absence of bad for granted and to live in this purgatory we are in now".

"Northern Ireland is in a better place today than it was 20 years ago, that's for sure, but we still have a long way to go and the flaws in the agreement that were not addressed at the time still need to be addressed".

Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Castle Buildings signing the peace agreenment that will allow the people of Northern Ireland to decide their future.

"Make the most of it", he said.

"The least George and I can do with our freedom is to plead with you to give the same gift to generations yet to come".

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The US senator who successfully chaired talks leading to the Good Friday agreement has said that London and Dublin should put aside their disagreements over Brexit to protect the deal.

The devolved institutions at Stormont collapsed after the resignation of Martin McGuinness amid a row over a botched green energy scheme.

For more than a year, the DUP and Sinn Fein have refused to share power in Stormont.

The peace deal, committed Northern Ireland's political parties to resolving political issues by democratic and peaceful methods and it effectively brought an end to "The Troubles", which resulted in the deaths of 3,532, the majority of whom were civilians.

Almost 1,500 people died during the 20-year-period prior to the signing of the agreement.

"To have him back Northern Ireland for this significant anniversary is a privilege". "That is our goal and we are determined to achieve that".

Politicians are now working towards preserving the positivity and hope written in the pages of the peace-making agreement 20 years on.

ON April 10, 1998, an agreement between the British and Irish Governments and the majority of political parties in Northern Ireland changed the Irish political landscape forever.

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