MAKING PEACE by George J. Mitchell


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A rather dry firsthand account of the difficult negotiations leading up to the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland, as told by the former senator and negotiations chairman. Mitchell’s inestimable political genius played a crucial role in achieving the historic Good Friday Agreement. As it emerges here, his unwavering patience, vast experience, and supreme evenhandedness steered the bickering parties toward consensus, pushing the peace process forward against powerful tides of sectarian hatred. Mitchell makes clear how his years as Senate majority leader prepared him well to confront the polarized political climate of Northern Ireland, where incendiary rhetoric and rifles have often substituted for political discourse. For the first time in eight decades, overwhelming international pressure (especially from Britain, Ireland, and the US) played a decisive role in creating the momentum for peace. The opposing Irish nationalists and pro-British Unionists, who have traded atrocities for 30 years, felt this pressure intensely, but also felt pressure from their own (often extremist) constituents who feared that compromise would be a “betrayal.” Every inch the politician, Mitchell implicitly understood the tightrope walk that both sides were being asked to take. He performed brilliantly as a trusted, honest broker, enabling the parties to hammer out the details of an agreement. While Mitchell’s political acumen is undeniably world-class, he’s less skilled as a chronicler of events. He simply doesn—t flesh out the critical personalities (Tony Blair, David Trimble, John Hume, Gerry Adams, etc.), nor does he provide enough historical background to explain the profound sectarian mistrust that continues to scar Northern Ireland. On the paramount issue of weapons decommissioning, Mitchell offers almost no insights. What emerges most clearly is not Mitchell’s ability as a historian or memoirist, but his tremendous desire to bring the parties together. Despite horrific personal tragedy and diplomatic setbacks that would have driven a lesser person to hair-pulling insanity, Mitchell kept up the good fight. A middling book by an exemplary peacemaker and human being. (b&w photos) (First printing of 40,000)

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-40606-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999


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