BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2008, 10:28 GMT
The power brokers of 1998
They were the power brokers during the 1998 Good Friday Agreement talks - leaders who could make or break the future of Northern Ireland. Where are they now? BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport reports.

GEORGE MITCHELL

George Mitchell
George Mitchell chaired the multi-party talks
The talks chairman, Senator George Mitchell, told journalists who gathered outside Castle Buidlings that he hated to leave us, but had to go.

After sealing the deal, Senator Mitchell and the then secretary of state, Mo Mowlam, posed with the press for a group photograph.

Since 1998, the senator joined the Disney corporation and carried out an investigation into the use of steroid drugs in US baseball.

Through his US-Ireland Alliance he is playing a leading role in organising the events commemorating the Agreement's tenth anniversary, including a conference in April due to be attended by Bill Clinton.

MO MOWLAM

Many felt Mo Mowlam was relegated to the sidelines when Tony Blair took the leading role as the British negotiator inside Castle Buildings.

Mo Mowlam
Mo Mowlam was famed for her straight talking
But the straight talking minister struck a chord with the public who were impressed both by her political ability and her personal battle against cancer.

She won a standing ovation at the Labour Party conference in 1998. However, this was the high point of her career.

The year after the Agreement she moved to the Cabinet Office, a job she never found as fulfilling as Northern Ireland.

She stepped down as an MP in 2001and died following a resurgence of her illness three years ago.

TONY BLAIR

Mo Mowlam's boss Tony Blair continued to be the key figure when devolution faltered.

Tony blair
Tony Blair had a hands on role in the NI political process
He once expressed the opinion that a deal involving Ian Paisley was "pie in the sky".

But it was precisely that deal which he succeeded in negotiating at St Andrew's in Scotland in 2006.

The courtship of Ian Paisley proved Tony Blair's diplomatic skills and enabled him to time his departure from Downing Street to follow a victory lap at Stormont last May.

Whilst Mr Blair's reputation took a pounding over the Iraq war, his success in Northern Ireland contributed to his CV for his current role as a Middle East envoy.

BERTIE AHERN

Like Mr Blair, Bertie Ahern remained in office to oversee the Agreement's ups and downs.

Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern has seen the ups and downs of the Agreement
Ten years ago the thought that the taoiseach would be welcomed to Ballymena by the DUP leader, Ian Paisley, seemed inconceivable.

But the two men now appear to enjoy a personal rapport.

For Mr Ahern, the achievements of Castle Buildings are a far more welcome topic of conversation than his personal battles with the Dublin Mahon tribunal, examining alleged corruption in public life.

JOHN HUME AND DAVID TRIMBLE

In those days before Sinn Fein and DUP dominance, John Hume and David Trimble held the cards within nationalism and unionism.

David Trimble and John Hume
David Trimble and John Hume were once party leaders
Mr Hume had worked for years to nurture the process that led to the Agreement, but without the sceptical Mr Trimble there could be no deal to sign.

The two went on to share the Nobel Peace Prize, but Mr Hume left it to his deputy, Seamus Mallon, to share an uncomfortable period in office with David Trimble.

John Hume passed the SDLP torch on to his long term assistant Mark Durkan.

He occasionally goes public - as in one recent statement defending Hillary Clinton's contribution to building peace in Ireland - but is generally retired from politics.

David Trimble fought on against the doubters within his own party before being overcome by the surging tide of DUP support.

Since leaving office, he has joined the Conservatives and likes to speak in the Lords on a variety of national and international issues.

He is sceptical about the notion that the Northern Ireland peace process can be some kind of blueprint for conflict resolution elsewhere in the world.

GERRY ADAMS

Gerry Adams remains the president of Sinn Fein.

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams status as Sinn Fein leader remains unchanged
He was a pivotal figure in the talks which led to the restoration of devolution, the IRA disarming and Sinn Fein accepting the police.

He chose not to take ministerial office at Stormont, leaving it to his chief negotiator Martin McGuinness to become first education minister, then deputy first minister.

Many commentators believed Gerry Adams intended to concentrate on the expansion of his party south of the Irish border, perhaps with half an eye on the Irish presidency.

But a poor election showing for Sinn Fein last year constituted a set-back for that project, and Mr Adams has denied any presidential ambitions.

Now he is involved in negotiations on topics like devolving justice and shows a strong interest in issues such as the Irish language and efforts to reverse the high rate of teenage suicides.

GARY MCMICHAEL AND DAVID ERVINE

The two "fringe" loyalist parties, the Progressive Unionists and the Ulster Democrats, helped deliver the paramilitaries' acquiescence.

Gary McMichael and David Ervine
Gary McMichael and David Ervine represented loyalists
Gary McMichael of the UDP failed to get elected to the assembly, then his party was disowned by its paramilitary sponsor, the UDA.

David Ervine's PUP secured two seats in the assembly.

Mr Ervine came under pressure over the failure of the UVF to follow the IRA's example on disarmament.

But the powerful orator continued to be an influential voice locally and internationally until his sudden death after suffering a heart attack in January 2007.

Mr Ervine's colleague Billy Hutchinson was one of a number of Northern Ireland politicians who talked to their Iraqi counterparts about making peace at a conference in Finland last year.

JOHN ALDERDICE

John Alderdice
Lord Alderdice was the first speaker of the NI Assembly

John Alderdice was Alliance leader at the time of the 1998 talks. He went on to become the first speaker presiding over the on-again off-again Stormont Assembly.

Now his title is Lord Alderdice and he frequently travels abroad talking about the lessons of the peace talks.

MONICA MCWILLIAMS

Monica McWilliams of the Women's Coalition represented her party as an MLA, then later took on a job as Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commissioner.

LABOUR PARTY

Little was heard politically from the Labour party negotiators present at the talks.

However, when one of their two delegates dozed off during a meeting of the short-lived Northern Ireland Forum, the DUP's Ian Paisley Junior shouted out that "half of the Labour party is asleep".

Their leader, Malachi Curran, is now a publican in County Down.

IAN PAISLEY

Ian Paisley, DUP leader
Ian Paisley is poised to step down as first minister in May

Meanwhile, the man who stayed outside Castle Buildings, Ian Paisley Senior, could be said, a decade on, to have inherited the crown as Stormont's First Minister.

That was until this month when the DUP's "Big Man" confirmed that he too is moving on.





FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific