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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2008, 10:43 GMT
Pub's Good Friday Agreement link
By Johnny Caldwell
BBC News

Imagine the scenario: a man pulling you a pint in a pub tells he was involved in negotiating one of the most significant documents in both British and Irish history.

Malachi Curran pulling a pint
Malachi Curran helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement

You might think he was pulling your leg, and who could blame you - it's quite a claim.

But had you observed the name above the door on your way into the Ann Boal Inn in Killough, County Down, and promptly Googled it on your iPhone, you should now be piecing together information to support what you initially thought was a very tall tale.

And, if later you approach the bar to order another drink you should be able to ask Malachi Curran about the role he and seven other leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland played in 1998's Good Friday Agreement.

The civil servant turned publican represented the Labour Party of Northern Ireland - the smallest party participating - in the negotiations of the historic document.

Although history and the general public are more likely to remember David Trimble, John Hume and Gerry Adams, Malachi Curran believes smaller parties such as his played a "very crucial part".

It could have all been wrapped up in three or four weeks instead of the two years it did take
Malachi Curran

"You don't blow your own trumpet, but I'd take my hat off to the Women's Coalition, for example, and Monica McWilliams, who made an excellent contribution to proceedings," he said.

"She came up with a lot of common sense ideas that the representatives of the larger parties never would have.

"In fact, I don't remember a great deal coming from the larger parties and, in my opinion, it could have all been wrapped up in three or four weeks instead of the two years it did take.

"However, it was of course vital that we found a basis on which to build a future after the horrendous existence that people had lived in Northern Ireland and we did so."

Like many public houses in Northern Ireland, the welcoming ambience of the Ann Boal Inn belies a tragedy in which an off-duty police officer was murdered.

Malachi Curran outside his pub
The Ann Boal Inn overlooks picturesque Killough Bay

Tragedy would also claim the life of his fiancée several years later.

Ann Boal was a long-time friend of Malachi Curran and the pub, which bares her name, had been in her family for generations.

She met and fell in love with Constable Sandy Stewart, however, their relationship had not gone unnoticed by the IRA.

"Sandy, who was a lovely fella and actually wrote poetry, was sitting in here one miserable night in September 1981," said Malachi Curran.

"There would only have been about six in the bar and suddenly out of nowhere came two gunmen, one kept a gun on those sitting at the bar and the other emptied his into Sandy. Ann never recovered from it and died about four or five years later."

Malachi Curran took over the pub a short time after his friend's death and hopes, no matter who owns it, that its name will never change.

The thing that stands out most for me is the influence that Nelson Mandela had on David Trimble
Malachi Curran

The most memorable moment for Mr Curran during the Good Friday negotiations took place thousands of miles from Castle Buildings and the Stormont Estate, and in warmer climes.

"The thing that stands out most for me is the influence that Nelson Mandela had on David Trimble in South Africa - I noticed a tremendous change in him," he said.

"David was tightly wound-up, a shy man, and this is the first time I think I had seen him relax.

"And I think for the first time he recognised his strengths, and he did stand up, and we pushed through that agreement despite the Donaldsons of this world."

Jeffrey Donaldson had been part of the Ulster Unionists' Good Friday negotiating team, but left the delegation in protest at some of the arrangements, most notably the early release of paramilitary prisoners.

Good Friday Agreement being posted
A copy of the agreement was delivered to every home in NI

The Lagan Valley MP was a vociferous member of an anti-agreement faction within the UUP before joining the Democratic Unionist Party in 2003.

Despite claims by the DUP that the Good Friday Agreement is dead, Malachi Curran believes Northern Ireland is still benefiting from the document, also known as the Belfast Agreement, on a daily basis.

"The core of the Good Friday Agreement is still there - St Andrew's (agreement) is a bit of a wishy-washy thing on top of it.

"And what is there to show for the last ten years? Have we reduced poverty, tackled the housing crisis or any of the other serious issues affecting people?

"Despite this I am hopeful for the future in that I believe things are settled and in due course we will see movement to right and left politics in Northern Ireland."

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