Sunday, April 20, 2014
PORTLAND -- Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell was honored this week for his leadership in bringing peace to Northern Ireland in the late 1990s.
Mitchell, a Waterville native, received the fifth annual Claddagh Award from the Maine Irish Heritage Center on Wednesday night.
The award is given each year to a Mainer of Irish heritage who has devoted his or her life to serving the community. Mitchell, 79, no longer lives in Maine but was born and raised in Waterville and still has family members in the state.
His father was Irish and his mother was Lebanese.
Mitchell returned to Northern Ireland in March with his 14-year-old son, Andrew, 14 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 ended years of sectarian fighting.
Mitchell's visit was filmed by a BBC crew, which produced a documentary about how life has changed in Northern Ireland since the agreement was signed. Excerpts were shown Wednesday night.
"Many people's lives have been saved as a consequence (of the agreement) and that means a lot to me," Mitchell told Wednesday's audience of about 300 people.
Former Govs. Joseph Brennan and John Baldacci, as well as U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-!st District, attended the dinner and award ceremony.
"He is profoundly loved and admired," said state Sen. Margaret Craven of Lewiston.
Joao Vale de Almeida of Portugal, the European Union's ambassador to the United States, attended the ceremony as well.
"Senator Mitchell's reputation goes well beyond Ireland into continental Europe," he said.