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George Mitchell had spent almost two years leading peace talks with warring parties in Northern Ireland, adopting a strategy of just asking an open-ended question that would allow one side to vent.
“Mostly, it was listening on my part,” the former Senate majority leader recalled. But eventually, when the talks started to go sideways in early 1998, Mitchell had to force the 10 different parties to move from their positions. So he imposed a deadline that forced action: Good Friday.
“I had no authority to impose it,” he confided in a 70-minute telephone interview. But he had acquired something intangible through all those patient months of hearing them vent about grievances and murders carried out falsely in the name of their respective Gods. “They all really trusted me.”
An outsider asked by the U.S. president, Irish prime minister and British prime minister to lead the talks, Mitchell helped end the sectarian violence that had dominated the…
This article was written by Paul Kane and originally published on www.washingtonpost.com