There are very few people who have made such a significant contribution to securing the peace everyone on this island enjoys today as former US senator George Mitchell.
As the dogged chairman of the process that concluded with the Belfast Peace Agreement 20 years ago, he has a unique authority and insight so his warning yesterday that it would be an “immense tragedy” if the deadlock at Stormont undermined that historic achievement must be taken seriously.
That the impasse has endured for so long can only strengthen his argument. That it is, largely, an expression of unchanging tribalism facilitated by contrived issues shows how little trust each side still has in the other. “There is now in Northern Ireland once again a stalemate and once again strong courage and political leadership are necessary,” warned Mr Mitchell at the global conflict conference at Queen’s University, Belfast.
That domestic dispute may be exacerbated by the as yet unknown consequences of Brexit. That would be a double tragedy — rubbing salt into a wound that is not being allowed to heal. The distrust behind this stasis is rooted in long centuries of colonial rule and the response of the ruled to that hard reality. It seems fair to argue, as Edward Horgan does in our letters’ column today, that a new sensitivity is required if the achievement of George Mitchell and his peers all of those years ago is to be consolidated.