On the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, two of its main architects were recognised with honorary doctorates by Dublin City University (DCU).
David Trimble and Seamus Mallon became the First Minister and Deputy First Minister respectively of the newly-established Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998.
In Dublin yesterday, the veteran politicians were honoured with Doctor of Philosophy awards - the highest granted by DCU in recognition of “exceptional individuals” who have “demonstrated excellence in scholarship, in their profession, in services to the community, to the arts, literature and culture”.
Previous recipients include the poet Seamus Heaney, Mother Theresa, the novelist Roddy Doyle and the playwright Brian Friel.
US senator George Mitchell - another major player in the Northern Ireland peace process - will have an honorary doctorate conferred on him by the DCU in December.
Speaking ahead of yesterday’s ceremony, DCU president Professor Brian MacCraith said the university was “delighted to pay tribute to Seamus Mallon and David Trimble in recognition of their contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and their outstanding efforts on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland”.
He added: “2013 marks the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and it is fitting that, this year, we honour these two remarkable men whose commitment to democracy over conflict and to making a difference in society is an inspiration to us all.”
Following the ceremony, Prof MacCraith said: “It went off very well and both recipients spoke with great insight and with great passion about the achievements on the 15th anniversary of the signing.
“The significance of that was very strongly referred to. Both delivered very impressive speeches celebrating the achievement itself.”
Prof MacCraith said the main thrust of the “optimistic” speeches was that the agreement was a big milestone, “but we have to keep paying attention to this - that it is an on-going process that has to be minded”.