Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ remarks.
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) delivered remarks on the Senate floor today to discuss the resolution which commemorates the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10th, 1998. Former Maine Senator George Mitchell was pivotal in the successful negotiation of the historic agreement that underscored the United States’ steadfast support for both the United Kingdom and Ireland.
In addition to celebrating the historic compromise, which marked the beginning of a new era of peaceful political engagement in Northern Ireland, the bipartisan resolution also affirms support for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and subsequent agreements and arrangements, to advance peace on the island of Ireland.
Senator Collins’ full remarks can be found HERE or below:
On April 10th 1998, the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland signed the Good Friday Agreement, giving birth to a new era of peace in Northern Ireland. On this 25th anniversary, I join my colleagues in sponsoring a resolution commemorating an historic success, that marked the end of decades of conflict, and that remains crucial to peace today and in the future. This resolution passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously just yesterday, and will be passed, shortly, by the full Senate. Mr. President, the recent celebration of this landmark event, in Belfast, brought together the three leaders of the day: Prime Minister Tony Blair, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and President Bill Clinton.
The highlight of that gathering was the unveiling, at Queen's University, of a bust of Senator George Mitchell, the architect of the Good Friday Agreement, this chamber's former majority leader, and my fellow Mainer. And I know I speak for my fellow Mainers, when I say how proud we were of this extraordinary accomplishment, and we salute Senator George Mitchell on this, the 25th anniversary. Mr. President, during the three decades that the Troubles plagued Northern Ireland, some 3,500 people were killed, and 50,000 injured, in sectarian violence. In 1996, during one of the many sporadic and ineffective ceasefires, George Mitchell, one year after his retirement from the Senate, stepped forward to serve as America's Special Envoy to Northern Ireland. He was committed, determined, to forge a lasting peace, and he did. George Mitchell approached this daunting task with the statesmanship and dedication to justice that have defined his life.
For nearly two years, Senator Mitchell worked, with unyielding energy and endless patience, to bring together the many parties and conflicting interests. Despite arguments controversies and walkouts, the talks were held together by his leadership and by his "Mitchell principles." First and foremost, those principles held that political issues must be resolved by democratic and exclusively peaceful means. Finally, on Good Friday 1998, one day and a long, sleepless night, after the deadline Senator Mitchell had set to complete the complex negotiations, agreement was in fact reached. Six weeks later, the voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland endorsed the pact, with overwhelming margins. The Good Friday Agreement has been a remarkable success, in meeting its primary goal of ending bloodshed and bringing sustainable peace.
The resolution that I introduced with Senator Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls upon Congress to reaffirm its steadfast support for this historic agreement, and to the principles of peaceful and democratic participation as the only way to settle political differences. And equally important, it recognizes George Mitchell's pivotal role. Mr. President, Senator George Mitchell himself defined leadership as having the wisdom to know what is right, the courage to say what is right, and the strength to do what is right. This is not merely a definition he has offered throughout an inspiring life of service, but also an example he's set for others. I appreciate my colleagues' support of this resolution in his honor, as we seek to commemorate this historic anniversary of the agreement that he forged. An agreement that would not have come about, but for George Mitchell's endless leadership and patience.
George Mitchell, a Waterville native, served as a United States Senator from 1980 to 1995. During his time in office, Mitchell’s work was primarily focused on securing funding for healthcare, education, and environmental conservation related initiatives. In addition to his work representing the State of Maine, Mitchell played a crucial role in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations during the 1990s. As a Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, he had a pivotal role in brokering the Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to decades of sectarian violence in the region. Mitchell's commitment to public service and diplomacy earned him international recognition and numerous awards. He is admired for his ability to bridge divides and find common ground, both in his home state of Maine and on the global stage.
Click HERE to read the full text of the resolution.