The former US President Bill Clinton is to make a historic visit to Northern Ireland to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday peace agreement.

He is due to attend a conference that will feature prominent figures deeply involved with bringing peace to the region. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will also be in attendance, along with US Senator George Mitchell. Mitchell was a key figure in the original process, chairing the talks and acting in the role of adjudicator between the sides.

The conference is being held in Belfast

What is the Good Friday agreement?

It was signed on April 10, 1998, and brought an end to 30 years of violence on all sides. It laid the foundations for a power-sharing executive to be formed in a new Northern Ireland Assembly. It also included the decommissioning of all paramilitary weapons.

This 20th anniversary may help to bring some pressure on the current suspended Northern Ireland Assembly. The Assembly hasn't sat since 2017 due to a dispute between warring parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP.

According to the BBC's Today program, Tony Blair said: "Once you've got a viable peace process you've got to just work at it and work at it."

The freedom of Belfast

The conference is being held at the Queen's University in Belfast and will be attended by the former first and deputy first ministers Lord Trimble and Seamus Mallon.

Afterward, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Mitchell will attend a special ceremony at the Ulster Hall to become the 83rd and 84th recipient of the freedom of Belfast.

The university's acting vice-chancellor, Prof James McElnay said that Clinton's role was crucial to the peace process. He said that with his "pivotal" role, it ensured that all side reached an agreement on that historic day.

Other attendees include the former advisor to Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell.

Not everyone is happy

According to the BBC, Sir Jeffery Donaldson, of the DUP, said that the then leader of his party, David Trimble was "bullied" into signing a flawed agreement. He said that the agreement didn't put an end to paramilitarism, nor did it bring the promised political stability.

He went on to point out that after twenty years there wasn't even a sitting, functioning government.

The release of prisoners

One of the most controversial elements of the Good Friday agreement was the freeing of paramilitary prisoners on all sides. To the victim's families, this was a state-sponsored pardon for murderers that meant they would never see justice done.

The benefits of peace

Whatever part of the political spectrum you are on, once peace is delivered and a new generation grows up without the troubles of the past, once the old guard of the paramilitary has gone, then Northern Ireland may never accept the old ways of the gun and instead, choose debate and compromise as a way forward.