Saturday 21 July 2018

Bill Clinton and George Mitchell to receive freedom of Belfast

Former US President Bill Clinton
Former US President Bill Clinton

Mark Edwards

Former US president Bill Clinton and Senator George Mitchell are set to receive the freedom of Belfast.

The SDLP group at City Hall put forward the motion at a council meeting on Tuesday which was passed by the council.

That was despite the Ulster Unionist Party voting against the proposal.

It also emerged on Tuesday John Hume declined an offer of freedom of the city for his role in the peace process.

Pat Hume, wife of John Hume, thanked those behind the offer, she said: "On this occasion John will have to respectfully decline. I have conveyed this to Belfast city councillors through our colleagues in the SDLP."

Councillor Tim Attwood, proposing the motion, said: "Both Senator George Mitchell and President Bill Clinton played hugely important and significant roles in delivering the peace accord.

Senator George Mitchell has been tipped to act as mediator in the Catalonia row. Photo: Queen's University
Senator George Mitchell has been tipped to act as mediator in the Catalonia row. Photo: Queen's University

“Senator Mitchell was seen as the honest broker between all sides in the talks process. He won admiration from across the political divide in Northern Ireland for the careful, patient way he chaired the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement on April 10 1998.

“He steered the talks process through difficult and challenging time and at some considerable personal cost, away from home at a time of family bereavement and when his wife was pregnant.

“But after a final 36 hours of non-stop negotiations, he led the parties to an agreement on 10 April 1998."

He added: “Another person who was a constant on the road to peace, was President Bill Clinton who gave his unwavering commitment to achieving peace even before he was elected President in 1992.

Earlier UUP councillor Chris McGimpsey, speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Ulster, branded the motion as "a stunt and a gimmick".

A special council meeting will be called at a later date to officially confer the honour.

President Clinton and Senator Mitchell will be the 83rd and 84th recipients of the Freedom of the City of Belfast.

They follow in the footsteps of, most recently, Sir Kenneth Branagh,  and Michael Longley, Van Morrison and Dame Mary Peters.

Belfast Telegraph

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