A US diplomat is set to receive an award in Belfast for brokering the 1998 peace accord.

Senator George Mitchell chaired the Belfast Agreement talks which led to an historic deal and the establishment of the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly.

More than two decades later the statesman is set to return to Belfast where he will be honoured by charity bosses at a special awards ceremony.

Senator Mitchell is to receive an honorary award for leadership and peace building in Northern Ireland from CO3, the leadership organisation for the third sector, next month.

Politics Washington
George Mitchell (centre), who brokered the Northern Ireland peace deal, with former First Minister David Trimble (left) and Deputy first Minister Seamus Mallon (PA)

Senator Mitchell was appointed US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland in 1995.

He acted as a facilitator in the review of the deadlocked process, helping to find a way to implement an inclusive power-sharing executive and the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.

The Maine man later wrote that when the Good Friday Agreement was signed: “I took a deep breath and felt tears welling in my eyes. I had to sit down.”

Nora Smith, chief executive of CO3, said Northern Ireland owes Senator Mitchell a “great debt of gratitude”.

“George Mitchell made a remarkable contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. His achievements mean so much to everyone, but this is especially strongly felt by the voluntary and community sector,” she said.

“After all, it does not seem so very long ago when it seemed as if civil society was all that stood between Northern Ireland and the abyss.

“We both wanted to honour him and take inspiration from him. With no government in place and all the uncertainty and division that Brexit is causing, we need strong leaders to bring us together more than ever.

“When we look back at what Senator Mitchell played such a leading part in achieving, his extraordinary ability to bring people together seems even more remarkable.

“We owe him a great debt of gratitude and we need leaders like that today.”