Belfast Telegraph

Tony Blair's sidekick Jonathan Powell candid on talking to terrorists

By Andrew Johnston

Former Labour adviser and key figure in the Good Friday Agreement Jonathan Powell returned to Belfast on Saturday night to talk about talking to terrorists.

The sold-out event was ostensibly to promote Powell's latest book, which covers mediation with terror groups worldwide, but unsurprisingly, the discussion – chaired by BBC Northern Ireland's Mark Carruthers – focused primarily on Northern Ireland.

Describing the 1990s negotiations as both "agonising" and "the most important" event of his political career, Powell proved as good with a soundbite as his old boss Tony Blair.

"A peace agreement isn't like a fairy story," the quietly charming 58-year-old said at one point. "You don't live happily ever after."

As he himself admitted, much of Powell's analysis appeared to be fairly contradictory, not least when he decried those who become seduced by the terrorists they're talking to, before revealing he had invited Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, as well as members of the UUP and DUP, to his wedding.

But, he added with an air of self-mocking disappointment, "none of them came".

The evening concluded with a remarkably civilised question-and-answer session, during which not one audience member hijacked the occasion for an aggrieved rant.

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph