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Thursday, 18 November, 1999, 15:31 GMT
Talks parties' praise for Mitchell
Tributes as George Mitchell says his farewells at Stormont

Tributes to the work of former US senator George Mitchell in chairing the review of Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace agreement were led by the Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson.

Speaking in Downing Street before Mr Mitchell delivered his final report at the end of his eleven week review, Mr Mandelson said he wanted to add his own sense of deep personal gratitude for all he had done and achieved.

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"He has not simply been working for weeks on this. He has devoted four years of his life to building up the peace process in Northern Ireland by working closely with the parties.

George Mitchell has helped transform the situation from one of conflict and confrontation to dialogue and peace.

"Change is always difficult, but, working quietly in the background, George has taught us that it is better to take a series of smaller steps together, than wait for the other side to take the giant step that may never come.

"George has taught us that change is possible. This week, with his help, the politicians of Northern Ireland are showing that he is right. We are forever in his debt."

Ulster Unionist Party

Senior Ulster Unionist negotiator Sir Reg Empey paid tribute to the "tremendous efforts" of George Mitchell.

He said his patience had been aboveand beyond the call of duty.

There had been a number of important statements this week and more were likely to emerge in the coming days.

"It is important the true significance of these is taken together by reading them all and cross-referencing one to the other.

He said the party's twin objectives had been and remained devolution and decommissioning.

Commenting on the deal he said: "There is no other way forward and the real winners will be the people.

"We (the politicians) are only people who represent ordinary people. We have a responsibility to see what we do and say is in their best interests."

Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has also responded to Mr Mitchell's statement.

Mr Adams said like the Ulster Unionists and SDLP he welcomed Mr Mitchell's concluding report and the steps that had taken place during the week.

Mr Adams said: "In our view the way has now been cleared for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It holds out the best hope of securing an end to injustice and the inequalities and conflict which have troubled Ireland and our people for generations.

"But it is also very much about proving the efficacy of politics, that politics is the alternative to conflict, that politics works and that politics can bring about change and that will be the big test in the time ahead."

He said Sinn Fein had been preparing effective and radical policies on all the main economic and social issues and they would be bringing them forward.

SDLP tribute

For the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Eddie McGrady,MP also paid tribute to the patience and purpose which Mr Mitchell had brought to the talks process.

He said his report, taken in conjunction with the other statements of the week "provides us with a premise for progress".

He said his party looked forward to the British and Irish Governments bringing forward their formal response to Senator Mitchell's review report and to them setting out a timetable for the establishment of the political institutions.

He pledged the SDLP to working with the other parties to make a real success of the institutions and to supporting the important work of General John de Chastelain in achieving decommissioning "as soon as possible".

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See also:
18 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
We have basis for peace - Mitchell
18 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Mitchell statement in full
16 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein: Guns deadlock will end
16 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Arms statement not enough - Donaldson
12 Nov 99 |  Talking Point
Should the Ulster Unionists say yes?
16 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Analysis: Jigsaw of peace
16 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Promising climate for peace
17 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
IRA statement signals new approach

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