Remarks by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr David Andrews, at the closing ceremony of the Multi-Party Talks
Remarks by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr David Andrews, T.D. at the closing ceremony of the Multi-Party Talks, 10 April 1998
Today is an extraordinary day for all of us here in this room, and for the people we represent. The hopes invested in these negotiations have been richly rewarded. This is truly a day when history has been made.
The success of these negotiations will, I believe, come to be seen as a turning point in the affairs of this island. After centuries of division and misunderstanding and a generation of conflict, we have succeeded in producing a potent vision of a better future. The Talks participants deserve enormous credit for having successfully transcended differences that had hitherto seemed unbridgeable.
I have been fortunate to have enjoyed a long political career marked by many personal highlights. Nothing in my 33 years in politics can come near to the satisfaction I have derived from being involved with the people around this table in seeking to overcome the legacy of our history and to create an exciting future free from the scourge of conflict.
The final document to which Senator Mitchell has secured our agreement contains a comprehensive and agreed blueprint for the development of relationships between the various traditions in Northern Ireland, between nationalism and unionism in Ireland and between the peoples who inhabit Ireland and its nearest neighbour. It has required an enormous effort to get us to this point. We now have a new task before us, the task of building trust. We have established structures that can deliver a better future. We must now work together to ensure that they do so. The determination and negotiating skill displayed by all the participants in this in securing agreement augurs very well for our capacity to surmount the challenges ahead. I want to pay tribute to each and every delegation for having made such an effort in representing their constituents while being willing to come to terms with the needs of others. The agreement we have reached today will stand as a monument to power of dialogue to transcend dissension.
This is a day that many people thought would never come. Throughout the twenty months of negotiation, there were persistent voices highlighting the seeming impossibility of agreement between of such divergent perspectives and aspirations. There were those outside the process who mounted violent attacks aimed at unnerving those who sought to uncover the path to political agreement. There were times within the Talks when we seemed stalemated by difficulties. It is a considerable tribute to the skill and perseverance of Senator Mitchell, Prime Minister Holkeri and General de Chastelain that the Talks never faltered. Under their guidance, we have worked our way to an agreement that I am convinced will capture the public's imagination. I trust that this agreement will secure a resounding approval when the people are asked to judge it on the 22nd of May.
The last few days have highlighted the resolute determination of the participants not to allow the prospect of agreement slip through our fingers. The presence of the Taoiseach and Prime Minister, and the perseverance shown by them, made a vital contribution to our success, and I pay wholehearted tribute to them. I have particular admiration for the fortitude of my own leader, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, for the huge effort he put in during the last few days against a backdrop of personal bereavement.
The Minister of State, Liz O'Donnell, has been an unending source of support to me during these negotiations and I want to commend her for the skilled effort she devoted to her role at Castle Buildings. Both of us have profited form the backing of an excellent team of officials who have worked incredibly long hours with great professionalism and without complaint. However great the challenges before us might have seemed, we were all inspired by a realisation that the opportunity facing us was infinitely greater. Top