Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: A window into the secrets of history

Once again the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks has given us a tantalising glimpse of what really goes on in the corridors of power and how even far-reaching decisions are reached.

The latest extracts published in this newspaper show that the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern was willing to play very high stakes political poker unless the DUP agreed to share power with Sinn Fein.

During delicate negotiations on power-sharing in 2006 Mr Ahern told US officials that unless a deal was done he would attempt to overturn the Republic's decision in 1998 to change its constitution and drop the territorial claim to Northern Ireland.

There has never been a hint before of such brinkmanship and, while it is easy to dismiss the Taoiseach's threat as a mere bargaining stance, imagine what the reaction would have been had unionists learned of his comments.

There is every chance that the peace process would have stalled, at the very least, if not run into the sand. It was a risky tactic on his part, but ultimately, after heavy pressure from the Irish and British governments, the power-sharing administration was formed.

The value of these leaked confidential documents is that we, the ordinary public, get to see information which would otherwise be locked away for decades. They let us see that even momentous events of state or historic decisions can hinge on the most tenuous of circumstances.

While we believed that the power-sharing deal was carefully orchestrated and choreographed it now appears that the process was very fragile and could easily have broken down.

The cables disclosed today, and previously, show that modern history is sometimes dependent on happenstance and luck as well as the will of the participants to make things happen. Personalities as well as policies play a dominant role in the decision making and the public faces of the movers and shakers in society are often very different from the way they behave behind closed doors.

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