New York conference on peace in Northern Ireland hears from leading figures in Northern Ireland, Irish America on government talks.

Senator George Mitchell issued a clear warning that there is potential trouble ahead with the peace process in Ireland unless there is a restoration of government.

Mitchell was speaking at 20 Years of Peace, a conference and lunch on the 20th Anniversary of the Belfast Agreement hosted by Co-operation Ireland and IrishCentral at the Metropolitan Club in New York City and attended by over 200 delegates.

Mitchell pointed out that a new generation which never knew The Troubles, which essentially ended in 1998, were coming to adulthood and had no memory of how bad things had been at the height of the conflict.

Nancy Soderberg, James Cooper, Ian Paisley, Jr., Deaglán de Bréadún, Pat Doherty, Mark Durkan, and George Mitchell. Photo: Moya McAllister

Nancy Soderberg, James Cooper, Ian Paisley, Jr., Deaglán de Bréadún, Pat Doherty, Mark Durkan, and George Mitchell. Photo: Moya McAllister

Mitchell stated that those who witnessed the troubles knew that no matter how badly the power-sharing arrangement worked the fear of a return to violence would be the greatest concern of all.

Not so for the generation which had never witnessed the raw savagery of that era though, he pointed out. A resumption of violence could not totally be ruled out.

Mitchell and Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisle,y Junior did, however, note that crises in governments, where coalitions had difficulty forming, was very common in Europe, instancing Germany, Holland, Belgium as recent examples where governments had not been formed, in some cases for years.

Ian Paisley Junior stated that the problems in Northern Ireland could be resolved now that there was no bloodshed. He stated the North was in an era of difficult politics but nothing extraordinary.

Former White House National Security Advisor Nancy Soderberg stated it was time that both sides looked to the future for their grandchildren rather that being focused on the past.

“Well, twenty years on, the parties should not need the US to focus their minds. Its their children’s future at stake.  Twenty years on, the parties ought to be able to negotiate their own future.  That is a basic tenet of leadership. Seeing the possibilities for progress.  Finding a way to get to yes.

“Stop thinking about your grandparents’ Northern Ireland and have the courage to create the Northern Ireland you want for your grandchildren.”

Irish Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader Simon Coveney in a luncheon address stated that his government was locked in on the issue of restarting the power sharing government.

“It is easy to feel negative, easy to be cynical or despondent, easy to cast about for someone to blame. We will not go down that path.”

Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photo: Moya McAllister

Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photo: Moya McAllister

“Nor will we give credence to those who – even in recent days - glibly claim that the Good Friday Agreement has failed or outlived its utility. That is simply not true. And that kind of reckless talk, ignorant of the history and evolution of peace in Northern Ireland, cannot go unchallenged.”

Emphasising that the lives lost during the Troubles, and those who were injured or bereaved will never be forgotten, the Tánaiste talked of the critical importance of achieving real reconciliation:

“This is the moment for a renewal of the commitment in the Good Friday Agreement to reconciliation – deep and lasting reconciliation.”

Jim Clerkin Chairman of Co-operation Ireland stated that it was time to consider a special envoy if the two sides could not get together.

Jim Clerkin. Photo: Moya McAllister

Jim Clerkin. Photo: Moya McAllister

Coincidentally the Friends of Ireland congressional group in Washington issued a similar request.

“As members of the bipartisan Friends of Ireland group in Congress we believe it is is the ideal time for (President Trump) to name a new envoy, ”they stated.

Bertia Ahern, George Mitchell, and Tony Blair, 1998.