One of the UK’s leading political communicators, best known as Tony Blair’s ‘spin doctor’, launched his latest diary offerings at Queen’s University this week — to the delight of students and local political figures alike.
Alastair Campbell visited Queen’s on Monday to speak on his latest book ‘Power and the People’ that, for the most part, focuses on Mr Blair’s time in office leading up to (and including) the Good Friday agreement.
Speaking about his visit to Belfast, Alastair Campbell said: “I am delighted to be back in Northern Ireland and grateful to Queen’s for inviting me to speak at the university.
“Of all the events and issues I was involved in with Tony Blair, the Northern Ireland peace process was one of the most compelling.
“I have said before that the day the Good Friday Agreement came together was perhaps the best of the many hundreds of days I spent in TB’s company. He made the issue a priority very early on and like a lot of others just never gave up.
“I hope the diaries will provide students and future historians with a close-in account of what it was like to be at the centre of that process, not just the highs of the Good Friday Agreement but the many lows which followed, perhaps worst of all the Omagh Bombing, and also give people a sense of the key characters, many of them of course politicians from Northern Ireland itself, who shaped history.”
In his talk Mr Campbell referred to some of the humour that accompanied the intense negotiations leading up to the peace agreement.
To hearty laughs from the audience, he recalled one of the first meetings Mr Blair ever had with, now, First Minister Peter Robinson. The Labour PM was explaining how the ‘principle of consent’ formed the backbone of the agreement — that was still to be signed.
Mr Campbell explained: “Halfway through, the fire alarm went off and Tony, startled, asked ‘what’s that noise?’ Peter Robinson shrewdly replied, ‘That’s the lie detector Mr Blair.’”
Standing in the queue to get a copy of the book signed by Mr Campbell was south Belfast SDLP councillor Niall Kelly. He told the Community Telegraph: “I think Alastair has been a very important figure in the last 10 to 15 years.
“It was good to come along and hear him speak about the peace process and hear about the human stories, the things that lightened the moment and which in some ways makes things easier to understand.”