Fifteen years after he brokered the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland, the former Senate majority leader was awarded the D’Alemberte-Raven Award, the section’s highest honor, named for Robert D. Raven and Talbot D’Alemberte, two former ABA presidents who also served as section chairs.
“The men and women of Northern Ireland summoned the courage to do the right thing,” said Mitchell of the peace agreement, crediting the political leaders of Northern Ireland as he recounted the painstaking process that took two years of intense negotiations.
Appointed United States envoy for Northern Ireland by President Bill Clinton in 1995, Mitchell’s patience and understanding of the political complexities were crucial character traits that helped him take the lead in the delicate negotiations, according to the section.
Ever the determined mediator, Mitchell believes there is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be resolved, but acknowledged that “there is no magic formula.”
Resolution begins with a belief that problems can be solved and a “clear and determined policy not to yield to violence,” said Mitchell. When men and women have no hope and no opportunities, they are likely to take the path of violence, he said, pointing out the importance of available economic opportunities in resolving disputes. “Despair is the fuel of instability.”
Providing further insight to his work, Mitchell said that hammering out an agreement is one thing, but implementing it—getting people to do what they agreed upon—is harder than getting them to agree in the first place.
According to the section, the peace accord that still holds in Northern Ireland is a testament to Mitchell’s mediation skills.