Mo Mowlam planned Elton John concert months before Good Friday Agreement


Former Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam planned Sir Elton John’s Stormont concert months before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, archived documents show.

She discussed the gig with Tony Blair amid ambitious efforts to transform the use of the Stormont Estate and make it more publicly accessible as decades of violence largely wound down.

Sir Elton performed the first open-air show at the venue in 1998, just weeks after negotiators clinched the Belfast Agreement, at the special request of the then prime minister.

Mardi Gras – Mo Mowlam
Mardi Gras – Mo Mowlam

It came the weekend after a massive Yes vote in the referendum on the peace accord.

The deal led to devolved powersharing at Stormont, reorganisation of the police, release of paramilitary prisoners and establishment of North/South and East/West political structures.

Ms Mowlam wrote to Mr Blair about the event in December 1997.

She said: “Security considerations remain a significant factor and will continue to be borne in mind in general planning and in managing specific events.

“I need to take the local politicians along with us in these measures.

“Nationalists are likely to be sceptical and unionists will be concerned about devaluing the standing of Stormont.

“Local residents will be apprehensive about events which attract large numbers of people.”

She intended to invest a “relatively modest” amount of public money in providing new assets like a historical exhibition and children’s play area.

Ulster Assembly election 2017
Ulster Assembly election 2017

In an archived letter from 1997, published by the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland, she said: “The aim will, however, be to ensure that musical events are run on a commercial basis, with perhaps the venue being free in the first year.”

About 14,000 people attended Sir Elton’s show, news reports from the time said.

It had been nearly a decade since Sir Elton had last performed in Belfast.

Ms Mowlam told the prime minister of her plans for classical and popular musical events in Stormont’s parklands, including, following Mr Blair’s approach to his manager, the concert by Sir Elton planned for summer 1998.