New Years Honours: Major heads honours list for peace

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR and the former US Senator George Mitchell are among the key architects of the Northern Ireland peace process to be rewarded in the New Year honours today.

The former prime minister is created a Companion of Honour, the highest honour available to the Queen, while Mr Mitchell receives the equally rare honorary knighthood bestowed upon foreign nationals.

But Tony Blair's attempt to use his third honours list to mark the historic Good Friday Agreement ran into trouble when it emerged that leading nationalist politicians had turned down honours. Downing Street took the unprecedented step yesterday of revealing that members of the "nationalist community" had been offered awards but declined them.

It is likely that senior figures in John Hume's Social Democratic and Labour Party were approached, but refused because they entailed recognition of "the British Empire".

John de Chastelain, the Canadian general who co-chaired the peace talks, receives a Companion of Honour, and Quentin Thomas, the civil servant who first made secret contact with the IRA under Mr Major's administration, receives a knighthood.

Ronnie Flanagan, the Royal Ulster Constabulary's chief constable, also becomes a knight.

The list includes high achievers from sport, show business and industry, but puts a strong emphasis on more "ordinary" public servants in schools, the NHS and community groups.

Robert Carlyle, the actor who starred in the hit films Trainspotting and The Full Monty, receives an OBE, as do the pop singers Dusty Springfield and Tom Jones.

Lenny Henry, the comedian and Comic Relief founder, gets a CBE, together with actress Maureen Lipman and the former James Bond, Roger Moore.

There is a knighthood for Frank Williams, the Formula One motor-racing team boss, and MBEs for the boxer Prince Naseem Hamed and the snooker star Jimmy White.

Nigel Hawthorne, the actor who played Sir Humphrey in TV's Yes Minister, is knighted, as is Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Gallery.