FORMER US Senator George Mitchell, one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement, returned to the cross-Border bridge named in his honour at the weekend, almost 20 years on from the historic peace deal.

The distinguished politician and diplomat, who acted as chair for the Northern Ireland Peace Talks from 1995 until 1998, attended an interdenominational prayer service and tree-planting ceremony at the Senator George Mitchell Peace Bridge at Aghalane, County Cavan, on Sunday afternoon.

The bridge, which is located between Derrylin and Belturbet, and connects Counties Cavan and Fermanagh, opened in April 1999.

It replaced the nearby Aghalane Bridge, which was destroyed by a bomb in November 1972.

Senator Mitchell was present for a beam-laying ceremony at Aghalane on September 6, 1998, and 20 years later returned to the Border community.

He was invited to do so by Drumlane Pastoral Council.

The interdenominational prayer service was led by Rev. Tanya Woods, Annagh Group of parishes, Rev. Hazel Hicks, Arva Group of Parishes, Dean Nigel Crossey, Dean of Kilmore, Fr. Ultan McGoohan, Teemore, and Fr. Gerry Comiskey, Drumlane parish priest.

The attendance included representatives from the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland congregations in both Counties Cavan and Fermanagh.

Also present was the Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council, Councillor Paddy McDonald, joined by colleagues from Cavan County Council and Chief Executive, Mr. Tommy Ryan.

Event organiser, Fr. Comiskey, welcomed Senator Mitchell on behalf of all those gathered.

He said that he was privileged to lead the prayer service for continuing peace in Northern Ireland and, most especially, in the Border regions.

“Peace is what people all over Ireland, north and south, have longed for, have marched for, have prayed and have fasted for, for several decades.,” said Fr. Comiskey before adding.

“A real opportunity now exists and a responsibility now rests on all of us to seize this opportunity to exploit all its possibilities, by every means in our individual and collective power.

“A particular responsibility rests on the shoulders of governments, party political leaders, politicians, and their supporters, on community leaders, and on business and professional people,” he said.

The parish priest also said that a “special responsibility” rested on church leaders, including those who had gathered for the prayer service.

He continued: “Public opinion, particularly in Ireland, will be very severe, history will be very severe, in judgement on any government or political party seen to have been an obstacle blocking this opportunity, or perceived to have been a cause of it being lost.

“May all of us turn to God in most earnest prayer for his help and may we obtain from his mercy that peace for which we long,” concluded Fr. Comiskey.

Meanwhile, the former senator received the Freedom of Belfast, along with former US President Bill Clinton, on Tuesday in honour of the significant roles both men played in delivering the Good Friday Agreement to Northern Ireland.