Category: Archive

Mitchell, Northern leaders share Courage award

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jim Smith

BOSTON — Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and the leaders of the political parties that negotiated the Good Friday peace agreement received a special Profile in Courage award in a ceremony Monday at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

The award, named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer prize-winning book, was presented by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

In a citation read by Caroline Kennedy, the eight political leaders were praised for having "committed themselves to ending 30 years of violence and bloodshed in Northern Ireland, to reducing divisions between unionists and nationalists, and to building bridges between these proud communities for the future."

The honorees included talks chairman Mitchell, Nobel laureates John Hume of the SDLP and David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party, Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party, Gary McMichael of the Ulster Democratic Party, Malachi Curran of the N.I. Labor Party, Lord John Alderdice of the Alliance Party, and Monica McWilliams of the N.I. Women’s Coalition.

Trimble, who was in Washington with his family, was the only honoree not present for the ceremony. In a videotaped greeting, he expressed a commitment to work through the current difficulties, alluding to the stalemate attributed to his party’s reluctance to accept proposals relating to cross-border bodies and new government departments.

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The only reference by the honorees to Trimble’s notable absence from the ceremony was made by Adams, who told the audience that he hoped "that those who are not here share a similar commitment" to overcoming obstacles on the path toward peace.

The most poignant remarks of the evening were made by Mitchell, who spoke of his new dream that some day, several years from now, he and his young son will visit Northern Ireland: "On a rainy afternoon, we’ll drive to Stormont and sit quietly in the visitors gallery of the new Northern Ireland Assembly. There we will watch and listen as these men and women and others like them debate the issues of life in an ordinary, democratic society. There will be no talk of war, for the war will have long been over. There will be no talk of peace, for peace will be taken for granted."

On Tuesday, the political leaders traveled to Washington, D.C., where they, along with President Clinton, received the W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award. On Thursday, Hume and Trimble will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

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