George J. Mitchell

Northern Ireland Records, 1995-2008 (bulk 1995-1998).

29.5 linear feet.

Catalog Number: M202.7

Background Note:
After his retirement in 1995, Senator Mitchell was appointed by President Clinton to serve as Special Advisor to Northern Ireland. On November 28, 1995, British Prime Minister John Major and Irish Taoiseach John Bruton issued a joint communique announcing the "twin-track" system, calling for the formation of the International Body to examine the process of decommissioning paramilitary arms in Northern Ireland, and setting a date in February 1996 to open all-party peace negotiations. As chairman of the International Body, Mitchell gathered background information regarding the conflict in Northern Ireland. During December of 1995 and January of 1996, the International Body received hundreds of submissions and testimonials from individuals, groups, and corporations concerning the quarter-century of violence and political unrest in Northern Ireland. Also referred to as the Mitchell Commission, the Body interviewed a number of British and Irish political and religious leaders in an attempt to discern whether or not various paramilitary groups would voluntarily surrender arms as a precursor to peace negotiations. The Mitchell Report, released on January 24, 1996, called for a phasing-out of paramilitary weapons in Northern Ireland in addition to elections prior to the opening of peace talks. The report was lauded by both British and Irish governments, but the end of a 16-month cease-fire by the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) in February of 1996 delayed the peace process. During the next two years the joint chairmen oversaw a series of multiparty negotiations in which the involved groups debated various agendas, procedures, and draft agreements which dictated the Opening Plenary Session. This often volatile process included multiple party proposals on decommissioning of arms and other significant issues, as well as indictments against parties believed to be breaking with the Mitchell Principles. A major point of contention centered on the late admittance of Sinn Fein, which caused the withdrawal of many loyalist parties. While Sinn Fein was later expelled in connection with two Belfast murders, the decommissioning question remains a major obstacle to the full implementation of the final peace agreement, completed on April 10, 1998, and known as the Belfast Agreement. This agreement was approved by public referendum on May 22, 1998, mandating a new British-Irish Agreement to replace the Anglo-Irish Agreement, changes both in the Irish Constitution and in British legislation, and the creation of a North/South Ministerial Council with implementation bodies.

Materials held regarding the Northern Ireland peace process were mainly created or received between December 1995 and April 1998. Background material includes books, pamphlets, and videos that provide a history of the turmoil in Northern Ireland over the past 25 years. Commission documents include official submissions, press releases, schedules, Mitchell's briefing book, computer files, drafts of the Mitchell Report, party proposals, minutes from Opening Plenary Sessions and Strand meetings, records of informal discussions, statements, letters, election results, public opinion research, political promotional material, records of hearings, as well as the final Belfast Agreement document. There are press clippings collected between December 1995 and January 1996, and June 1996 through June 1998; and audio and video recordings, principally of media appearances and honors and awards received by Mitchell. A final sub series includes commemorative objects awarded to Senator Mitchell in recognition of his contribution to the peace process. Events documented are the development and release of the January 1996 Mitchell Report, procedural records of the sessions, and the drafting and signing of the peace agreement. Many Irish and United Kingdom political, governmental, and religious entities participated in the talks. These were represented by numerous individuals including Tony Blair, David Trimble, John Hume, Ian Paisley, Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams, John Taylor, Marjorie Mowlem, and Sir Patrick Mayhew, among many others. Discussion among these participants often focused on the numerous indictments faced by parties believed to be at odds with the Mitchell Principles, as well as the late admittance of Sinn Fein. Although Sinn Fein was later expelled from the talks, its entrance sparked much controversy and induced many of the loyalist parties to exit the peace process.

Access Restrictions: None.

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives · Staff · Hours
Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421 · · (207) 725-3288