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27-11-1999 Statement by the Taoiseach on the Decision of the Ulster Unionist Council


I warmly welcome today’s decision by the Ulster Unionist Council to approve the proposals by Senator Mitchell in the Review of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

I believe that history will come to judge today’s vote as a milestone of enormous significance in the journey towards a new and brighter future in Northern Ireland and on this island as a whole.

It means that the way is now clear to proceed with the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and all that that entails.

In enabling the establishment of the new institutions, it means, in particular, that the new partnership at the heart of the Agreement can at least begin to function for the benefit of all the people. That partnership holds, I believe, huge potential for all of us, North and South, and indeed on the two islands.

I know that today’s decision was a difficult one for the members of the Ulster Unionist Council. Putting the past behind is easily said but not easily done. The task of moving forward involves difficult and painful dimensions.

I want also to pay tribute to the leadership of David Trimble, and the leaders of all the pro-Agreement parties. The challenges facing Mr. Trimble in these past weeks and months have been difficult and complex. He has dealt with them with great skill, wisdom and vision. I look forward to working with him and all the party leaders, and with the British Government, in addressing the many onerous tasks before us, as we implement all of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

I want also today to pay tribute again to Senator George Mitchell. Even though he is now back in the United States, I am certain that he has been following today’s developments with the deepest interest and that he will be delighted with the outcome. He can take enormous personal satisfaction from his own contribution, which has been so vital to the progress we are now making. We are all hugely in his debt.

Finally, let us all be clear that today’s decision by the Ulster Unionist Council is only the beginning of a journey. There are many hurdles and difficulties ahead. Some of them we can foresee, some we can’t. But we must ensure that there is no turning back. What is now in our hands is truly a golden chance, a chance many thought we would never have, to build a future that we can all be proud of. There could hardly be a more appropriate or fitting juncture to do so, as we commence a new century and a new millennium. Let us work now with all of our strength to ensure that this chance is grasped and grasped to the full.