A Border priest who was one of the guests at Queen’s University Belfast’s ‘Agreement 25’ events earlier this week was delighted to be reunited with a familiar face – the former US Senator George Mitchell.

Fr. Gerry Comiskey was pleased to reconnect with the distinguished American diplomat and former politician who served as the Chair of the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement.

A number of years ago, Fr. Gerry welcomed Mr. Mitchell to the Senator George Mitchell Peace Bridge at Aghalane, Co. Cavan, in 2018 for a cross-community prayer service marking the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

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.

Talking to this newspaper on Monday, Fr. Gerry – who is now based in the Parish of Drumlane in Cavan – explained he was attending the conference, which includes dignitaries from across the UK, Ireland and America, due to the connection between the Border community and Mr. Mitchell through the Senator George Mitchell Peace Bridge.

With the ‘Agreement 25’ events running in Belfast this week from Monday, April 17 to yesterday, Wednesday 19, Fr. Gerry told The Impartial Reporter: “It’s most eventful here at Queen’s for the 25th anniversary of the Agreement.

“It is truly spectacular, in that so very many eminent leaders are here, including former President of the United States, Bill Clinton; two former Presidents of the Irish Republic; former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

“Today is going to add to the drama with the presence of the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, from Dublin.”

Speaking about the connection between the American senator and the Border community, Fr. Gerry said: “Senator Mitchell was at the foundation of the bridge when the work on the project began.

“But you didn’t actually get to walk across it until a few years ago, when he walked with a group of us across the bridge from both the Cavan and the Fermanagh side.

“It was truly wonderful to hear him speak here. We all know that he’s 89 years of age, and has serious health issues.

“But it was really inspirational to hear him speak for 45 minutes. He got three standing ovations, and I have no doubt about that in the future, his speech will rank among the great speeches of all times with Mandela, Robert Kennedy and JFK, and all those guys.

“I think everybody should watch his lecture on YouTube – it is just full of wisdom that’s available to us, if we listen attentively to our elders.

“His patience and ability to endure so much debate and persist because he wanted to do what was best for Ireland, and Northern Ireland most especially [is very impressive],” added Fr. Gerry.