1 of 3 | (L-R) Former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell pictured here in a panel at Queen's University in 2018 marking the 20th anniversary will all be in attendance at the three-day Agreement 25 conference this week. File Photo by Paul McErlane/EPA-EFE
April 17 (UPI) -- Leaders and officials from both sides of the Atlantic involved in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement were in Belfast on Monday for a conference to mark the 25th anniversary of the deal that brought peace to Northern Ireland.
The Agreement 25 conference reunites the architects of the deal including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his special envoy former Senator George Mitchell, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and local unionist and nationalist politicians.
Opening the conference at Belfast's Queens University, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the longevity of the agreement remained "a true triumph of diplomacy and a testament to democracy's power to transcend divisions and deliver peace.
"It is primarily a testament to a lot of tough, determined everyday people who refused to go back to the days of division and violence," said the former first lady who went on to become a U.S. senator, U.S. secretary of state, and Democratic presidential candidate.
"I think we can all agree to celebrate a significant milestone with both a sense of accomplishment, but also with hope and determination that the next 25 years will bring more fully the peace, prosperity and safety the agreement promised," said Clinton who is also the university's chancellor.
However, she made an impassioned plea for the stalled power-sharing part of the agreement which splits executive power 50-50 between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein to resume as soon as possible.
The DUP's boycott of the Stormont Assembly over post-Brexit trading arrangements has left Northern Ireland effectively without a government for the past 14 months.
"One of the driving reasons to resume the government, to get about the business of governing, is that right now 33% of school leavers in Northern Ireland leave to seek their futures elsewhere, taking with them their skills, their education, their ambitions, their dreams," Clinton said.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to attend a gala dinner recognizing volunteers who have worked toward reconciliation.
"I will also pay tribute to young people who have continued to heal the wounds of a dark and difficult past, and those who came before them and set the groundwork for a better future," Sunak said.
Sunak last week also urged the politicians to restart the power-sharing government ahead of a visit from U.S. President Joe Biden.
Following Biden's visit to Belfast last week the United States has sent a conference delegation led by Northern Ireland economic envoy Joe Kennedy III and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal that will look at ways of making good on Biden's promise to boost U.S. investment.
Speaking at Ulster University in Belfast on Wednesday, Biden said that American investors were ready to "triple" the $2 billion already invested over the past decade but that the restoration of power-sharing was a pre-requisite for that to happen.