20 Mar 2012

Former US Senator George Mitchell has described the political process in Northern Ireland as an “increasingly mature democracy”.

Mr Mitchell who chaired the talks process leading up to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 returned to Stormont on Tuesday to watch a debate.

He sat with his young son Andrew in the public gallery.

He said it was “emotional” to return and see a debate that “did not involve conflict or sectarian differences”.

In 1997, when the talks were not going well, Mr Mitchell flew back to the USA for the birth of his son and in 1998, he promised to return to Northern Ireland with him.

The former senator said he had a “great sense of emotion and fulfilment to be back in Northern Ireland”.

Speaking to reporters at Stormont after meeting politicians and touring the building, he said that “political leaders and the people of Northern Ireland are to be commended”.

He said the political process in Northern Ireland marked a “dramatic change”. He added that Northern Ireland was becoming “an increasingly mature democracy”.