A ceremony was held on Tuesday in the historic setting of the Ulster Hall to confer the Freedom of the City of Belfast on President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell.
The two American politicians were in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and took to the stage in front of hundreds of guests to accept the honour from Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister on behalf of members of Belfast City Council. The former US President and Senator Mitchell received the honour in recognition of their services to peace in Northern Ireland, and for the role they played in helping to reach Agreement in 1998.
With a focus on celebrating peace, the ceremony was presented by local author Glenn Patterson and featured music and readings from some of the country’s most celebrated poets including Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Emma Must and John Hewitt – Belfast City Council.
It’s not every day you get to meet a former US president and Senator in one day, but yet again this career never ceases to amaze me. Nuala sent me a message a couple weeks back asking if I’d like to be part of the press pack and cover this VIP ceremony. I felt very privileged as there was only one other photographic agency present.
I found out when I arrived that I would have direct access to both Bill Clinton and George Mitchell. There would be no posed photos that I was able to control during the evening, I was asked to just let Bill and George move through the Ulster Hall as planned. The only posed imagery would happen on stage when they would get their awards.
Despite the grandeur of my subjects it was a remarkably relaxed evening and one that I will certainly remember for sometime to come.