Senator George Mitchell said the British Government must continue to strengthen the Northern Irish economy to ensure the future of the peace process.
“I encourage both prime ministers to look for ways to increase opportunity in the free market economies,” Senator Mitchell said. “There has to be a constant effort.”
“There has to be opportunity, jobs, hope for people, otherwise violence is inevitable. That is true everywhere,” he said.
Referring to Northern Ireland’s large public sector, Senator Mitchell said it was crucial that the British government continue to invest in the North.
“The most important thing for the British government, in my judgment, is not to take an action that would say, ‘You’re at peace now, you don’t need this large transfer of funds’.
“They are at peace now, but it’s fragile, less fragile with each passing day.”
Mitchell, who served as the Independent Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks, made the comments during a screening of the documentary “George Mitchell: My Journey's End,” as part of the 1st Origin Theatre Festival in Manhattan on Monday night.
The BBC documentary followed Senator Mitchell and his teenage son Andrew on their journey to Northern Ireland to assess how life has changed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April, 1998.
Senator Mitchell played a pivotal role as the chair and architect of the historical agreement, which eventually led to a power sharing government in Belfast.
The Senators son Andrew was born at a critical point during the peace process on October 16th, 1997. The documentary follows the father and son as they meet with families who also have a child born on the same day as Andrew.
The screening was followed by a Q&A with Senator Mitchell and National Book Award winner Colum McCann, moderated by Loretta Brennan Glucksman of the Worldwide Ireland Funds.
Referring to his trip to Northern Ireland while filming the documentary Senator Mitchell spoke about his visit to Belfast City’s peace lines.
“I met on each side with their representatives and the most striking thing to me was how similar their presentations were,” Senator Mitchell said.
“In the afternoon a Protestant minister, one of the most powerful, persuasive orators I have ever heard in my life, came and put up on the wall a map which showed the violence in the urban areas of Northern Ireland, principally Belfast.
“Then he took another map and laid it over which showed unemployment in Northern Ireland and none of you will be surprised that they largely overlapped.
“He said to me, ‘There will not be peace, until these men have some opportunity in their lives.‘”
Produced by Below the Radar “George Mitchell: Journey’s End,” was awarded the silver world medal at the 2013 World's Best Television & Films.