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Thursday, December 31, 1998 Published at 03:01 GMT


Recognition for peace pioneers

John Major and Tony Blair both campaigned for a Yes vote

To search for a specific recipient of the 1999 New Year Honours, click the relevant link on the right-hand side of this page.

Former Prime Minister John Major, US Senator George Mitchell and General John de Chastelain have been recognised for their work in the Northern Ireland peace process in the New Year Honours list.


The BBC's Chris West: Honours underline government's commitment to peace process
Mr Major becomes a Companion of Honour for establishing the vital groundwork which led to the Good Friday Agreement.

Senator Mitchell receives the honorary title of Grand Knight of the Order of the British Empire, one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on a foreigner.


[ image: George Mitchell: Receives one of the highest honours]
George Mitchell: Receives one of the highest honours
As a US citizen, Mr Mitchell did not feature directly in the Honours list and the announcement was being made by the Foreign Office.

General de Chastelain - who comes from Canada, which is part of the Commonwealth - receives a Companion of Honour in the Diplomatic List for his role as co-chairman of the Northern Ireland talks.

Honours have also been awarded to those who helped in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing that killed 29 people in August.

The honour for Mr Major, who is said to be delighted by the news, demonstrates how much the present prime minister recognises that the agreement may never have been reached without the tireless efforts of his predecessor.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The prime minister has always acknowledged the work his predecessor did in Northern Ireland and in having the vision to start the peace process.

"It is entirely right that he should be honoured for the very important role he played."


[ image: General de Chastelain: Companion of Honour]
General de Chastelain: Companion of Honour
Mr Major joined Mr Blair in Northern Ireland in campaigning for a Yes vote in May's referendum.

Five years earlier, Mr Major and the Irish Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, signed the Downing Street Declaration, allowing Sinn Fein to join talks on the future of Northern Ireland if the IRA renounces violence.

The Canadian general was put in charge of the decommissioning of weapons process after the agreement.

He has an impressive military and diplomatic background, having served as Canada's Chief of Defence Staff and ambassador to the United States.

Harri Holkeri, a former Finnish prime minister, the third of the "three wise men" receives an honorary KBE for his role in the peace-making process.

Individuals in the nationalist community in Northern Ireland who were offered honours all declined them.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "We completely understand that."


[ image: Omagh: 29 people died in the August bombing]
Omagh: 29 people died in the August bombing
He refused to say how many were involved or to which parties they belonged.

The spokesman said: "The individuals concerned were those who worked hardest for the victory of peace over violence in Northern Ireland.

"We have drawn attention to the fact that some nationalists have turned down honours because we did not want the people of Northern Ireland to think that only one side had been honoured for their role in the peace process."

Those receiving honours for their role in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing are John McKinney, Clerk and Chief Executive, Omagh District Council, and Dr Clive Russell, of Tyrone County Hospital, leader of the medical team in Omagh, who both receive OBEs.

Police Sergeant Phillip Marshall, who took command of the operation at the scene, receives an MBE.





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