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Senator George Mitchell Photo by: Google Images

After 15 years, what are the challenges ahead for the Good Friday Agreement

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Senator George Mitchell Photo by: Google Images

It's the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, and a top-level public symposium has been announced for May 23 in New York City to reflect on the successes and challenges that lie ahead to secure lasting peace in the North. 

Former U.S. senator and special envoy to the Northern Ireland George Mitchell will deliver the keynote address to the symposium which is free (however tickets are required and can be ordered by visiting www.njaoh.com/gfa or by calling 212-248-3232).

The symposium will be held at the prestigious Cooper Union, and Mitchell’s keynote address will be followed by a panel discussion with Congressman Richie Neal, Congressman Joe Crowley and Mark Thompson, director of Relatives for Justice (RFJ) Belfast.

New York lawyer Marty Glennon, who sits on the Board of Governors for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, will moderate a round table discussion to discuss the anniversary and the path ahead.

“A cursory glance of the headlines coming out of the North lately make it clear that the Irish American community cannot afford to become complacent about the state of the peace process,” Glennon told the Irish Voice. 

“There are also many legacy issues that have been left unresolved such as the Bill of Rights and reunification issues and what role the U.S. can play in staying on top of it.”

The auditorium at Cooper Union seats up to 900 people. “We’re already at 500 confirmed attendees now, so this is the time to make your request if you’re planning on attending,” Glennon adds.

“We really want to fill the venue because a lot of people think Irish America has become complacent, thinking that everything’s over and done with in the North. If we show a full house there I think that sends a strong message.”

The challenges to peace posed by a small but determined dissident Republican faction will also be discussed. 

“When you listen to George Mitchell talk it quickly becomes apparent why he was the person to pull the Good Friday Agreement together,” says Glennon. “He has the patience of a saint. And Congressmen Neal and Crowley are rising stars in Congress and they’ll carry the flag going forward.”

The Cooper Union was the famous launch spot for the political career of President Abraham Lincoln in 1860, where he made his celebrated Right Makes Might speech. The formidable legacy of the venue to American politics underlines the seriousness and sense of urgency that still informs Irish America’s engagement with the North, Glennon says.

No senior U.S. Republican leaders have agreed to participate on the panel. Some have suggested that this reluctance is part of a wider GOP ploy not to participate in any forum that involves Democrats. Mitchell was a Democratic appointee under President Clinton, which may have been another factor. 

The symposium will take place from 6-9 p.m. at the Cooper Union which is located at 7 East 7th Street in the East Village.

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