Belfast Telegraph

Mandarins recall their set-tos with the Big Man

Mandarins' Tales - extracts from The British and Peace in Northern Ireland, edited by Graham Spencer.

THE MAN IN THE TRENCH COAT.

Two clergy who were attempting to mediate with the IRA told Chris Maccabe (former head of the NIO's political division) and he reported it up the line. They were summonsed to England where "an Englishman in a white trench coat" told them to back off. Mr Maccabe raises the bizarre episode with his boss Sir John Chilcott.

"The man in the trench was me," Sir John.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you much but you do need to know there is a credible process of engagement involved. It's being driven from London and it is starting to produce results."

REPUBLICAN OBJECTIVES

Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's special adviser, recalls: "In the end, the Good Friday Agreement does not actually resolve the issue of Northern Ireland.

"Republicans and nationalists still want a united Ireland and the unionists still want a United Kingdom. Most of the negotiating processes around the world try to resolve the issues at the centre of conflict, but we did not try to do that.

"What republicans were really demanding was change and the ability to bring about change without the unionists being able to veto it."

PAISLEY CRACKS A JOKE

David Cooke is a veteran of the Cabinet Office, the NIO and the Home Office. He recalls the Rev Ian Paisley bursting into a room of British officials in Parliament Buildings, commanding magnificently 'Let me smell your breath', and then roaring with huge laughter.

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