Former US President Bill Clinton has warned that the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement should be celebrated 'not for what happened but for what can happen.'
Clinton has urged politicians to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the agreement by restoring power-sharing in the North.
The 71-year-old will receive the Freedom of Belfast later alongside his fellow peace envoy, Senator George Mitchell.
In a speech last night, Mr Clinton noted that compromise is not a dirty word, and urged the current crop of Northern leaders to get back around the table.
"The Irish peace was born out of weariness of children dying and of lost chances," he said.
"The further you get away from that, the easier it is to take the absence of bad for granted and to live in this purgatory we are in now.
"It is a big mistake."
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with Senator George Mitchell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Castle Buildings after they signed the peace agreement, 10-04-1998. Image: RollingNews
The North has been without a devolved Government for over 14 months since the collapse of the Executive over the DUP’s handling of a botched renewable energy scheme.
The latest round of talks to restore power-sharing collapsed in February with the DUP and Sinn Féin at loggerheads over a range of issues – including the Irish Language Act.
Former US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland George Mitchell said today’s leaders must show leadership to end the current impasse and keep the peace:
“I don’t think they or anyone else should take for granted the absence of violence,” he said.
“I come from the US where we are plagued with the mass shootings; dozens, hundreds of our citizens including schoolchildren.
“No society can assume that they don’t have to do anything and things will be alright.
“It takes leadership – strong, effective, committed leadership.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley departs Downing Street, London, after a cabinet meeting, 27-03-2018. Image: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire/PA Images
Writing in Telegraph last night, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley insisted the restoration of power-sharing is the UK Government’s number one priority – even as the UK leaves the EU.
She said the UK Government will stand firm behind an agreement that has “been the bedrock of all that has been achieved over the past 20 years.”