US diplomat Richard Haass, who is President of the Council on Foreign Relations, has said he is humbled and honoured to receive the Tipperary International Peace Award. 

The award was presented to Dr Haass this afternoon at a ceremony in Co Tipperary.

It was given to him in recognition of the significant role he played in assisting the peace process in Northern Ireland.

While the talks ended without agreement, it is acknowledged that considerable progress was made, particularly on issues dealing with the past.

The organisers of the award, which gives recognition to those who promote the ideals of peace and peaceful co-operation in Ireland, said Dr Haass' efforts in the talks process has laid the foundations and created the environment for a more peaceful and prosperous future.

Previous winners of the Tipperary Peace Award include former South African President Nelson Mandela, Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof, Senator Gordon Wilson, GOAL founder John O'Shea, and former President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin.

Dr Haass said as honoured and happy as he was to accept the award, he would gladly have elected to forego it for an agreement, which he said, they came close to getting but in the end did not.

He said what was most important to peacemaking, more than any mediator, or indeed the details of a proposed accord, are local leaders, the principal participants in the process.

He said they must be willing and able to compromise and willing and able to stand by the agreement when it is criticised, as all agreements inevitably are.

Dr Hsass still believed that agreement was possible and very much in the power of the various leaders involved.

He did not believe there was any real alternative to the proposals put forward last December, and while an agreement did not have to be exactly like that, something very close to it was necessary if there was to be progress.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore paid tribute to Dr Haass for his work in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Mr Gilmore said "under Dr Haass' chairmanship, significant progress was made on the most difficult and contentious issues that face society in Northern Ireland.

"Dr Haass' outreach across society in Northern Ireland has had an enormously positive effect in encouraging people to believe in change and to demand that their leaders work to achieve a more reconciled society."

Mr Gilmore also encouraged political leaders in Northern Ireland to deliver an agreement based on the "solid foundation" created by Dr Haass and Dr Meghan O'Sullivan.