Good Friday Agreement: Hillary Clinton urges Northern Ireland leaders to show 'grit and resolve'

Hillary Clinton has urged politicians in Northern Ireland to move forwards with "the same spirit of unstoppable grit and resolve" that resulted in the Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago.

The former US secretary of state, who is hosting a conference at Queen's University in Belfast as part of her role as the institution's chancellor, said peace, prosperity and progress "remains incomplete".

She said on Monday the work of integrating housing and schools is "far from finished", adding that neighbourhoods "remain divided" and "poverty and unemployment persist".

Mrs Clinton, who is in Belfast with her husband, the former US president Bill Clinton, made the remarks at the beginning of the three-day conference marking the 25th anniversary of the peace deal.

Speaking in the university's Whitla Hall, Mrs Clinton said: "There have been many moments in Northern Ireland's peace journey where progress seemed difficult, when every route forward looked blocked, there seemed nowhere to go.

"But you have always found a way through and I believe you will again, because the stakes for the people of Northern Ireland are so high."

Mrs Clinton said Northern Ireland is an example to the world of how "even the staunchest adversaries can overcome differences to work together for the common and greater good".

She said: "So I encourage everyone now to move forward with the same spirit of unstoppable grit and resolve that brought the peace 25 years ago.

"Your friends in the United States will be behind you all the way as you work towards peace, prosperity and stability that lasts."

Mrs Clinton told the crowd: "Because while the Good Friday Agreement is an enormous achievement, we know that peace, prosperity and progress - that so many have worked tirelessly to achieve - remains incomplete.

"The work of integration in housing and schools is far from finished. Neighbourhoods remain divided.

"Poverty and unemployment persist. The difficulties of the past continue to threaten the present.

"You know we are at a standstill with the Northern Ireland Assembly no longer functioning, but the Windsor Agreement provides a path forward, not just for convening but for positioning Northern Ireland as an economic hub for global trade and investment through privileged access to the UK and all of its trading partners, as well as the EU."

Mrs Clinton said the ongoing exodus of Northern Ireland's young people to study and work elsewhere demonstrates the need to restore power sharing.

"One of the driving reasons to resume the government, to get about the business of governing, is that right now 33% of school leavers in Northern Ireland leave to seek their futures elsewhere, taking with them their skills, their education, their ambitions, their dreams," she said.

"The ongoing struggle to finish the Good Friday Agreement and claim its full promise is a reminder of one of the things I try to remember in my life when I've been really high or really low - there are no final victories or defeats in life.

"The most important thing is to fight the right fight and to keep doing it the best you can for as long as you can."

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