The Irish government was glad to see the back of Peter Mandelson as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has written in his autobiography.
The 368-page book, due to be published on Monday October 5, shows that Ahern wasn’t overly impressed by Mandelson’s successor John Reid either, nor did he warm to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
He admired Mo Mowlam who held the post from May 1997 until October 1999, when Mandelson moved into Hillsborough House, and Ahern insisted that, had the change-over not taken place, the peace process would have moved along faster.
In the eagerly-awaited tome the former leader of Fianna Fail describes Mandelson as rather fancying himself as the incumbent of the castle “where he could play the viceroy”.
“We never really hit it off with Mandelson,” he writes. “Talks with him were always heavy weather, partly because of his manner which was a bit standoffish. We were always doubtful about him. Nobody compared with Mo.”
What particularly galled Ahern was the fact that Mandelson invariably briefed the media on the progress of talks before informing the Irish government, which meant that Dublin received much information second-hand.
But if he found Mandelson something of a smoothie, his successor John Reid was something of a rough diamond. And while Ahern liked the Celtic Football Club supporter on a personal level — “where we could discuss football and other things” — he found the Scot too upfront and abrupt to deal with Northern Ireland issues.
The ex-Taoiseach’s memoirs, which are being serialised in the Sunday Times, also reveal his dislike for Gerry Adams “who could be narky, cross and difficult and who informed republicans about the content of talks, almost word for word”.
He found Adams’ deputy Martin McGuinness much more personable — “he would ask about my family, talk about my fishing and was much more approachable”.
He also reveals a stand-up row when the Sinn Fein men railed over comments by Ahern that Adams was in the IRA. This caused the Sinn Fein men to lose their tempers, to which Brian Cowen — then the Minister for Foreign Affairs and now Taoiseach — reacted angrily.
Ahern said Cowen berated Adams and McGuinness for insulting the leader of his country and banged the table. McGuinness and Cowen stood up eye-balling one another although, “neither of them spoke”.