Belfast Telegraph

Blair 'bent the truth' over peace

Tony Blair bent the truth to prevent the collapse of the Northern Ireland peace process, he has admitted in his memoir.

The former PM said he took "horrendous" chances and stretched the truth "past breaking point" as he dealt with unionists and republicans deadlocked over talks to restore devolved powers. He also revealed how a leading Orangeman described him as unfit to be prime minister because "my wife was a painted jezebel who claimed her allegiance to Rome".

Recalling the first time he met Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, Mr Blair added: "They were not just hesitant or distrustful, they were sitting down with the enemy.

"For countless meetings at first, Martin would not simply want to negotiate, most of all he would want to explain his side's purpose, its pain, its anger and its expectations. It took time before he came to regard me as a partner and even a friend."

Mr Blair said the final stages of Northern Ireland peace process talks in 2007 nearly collapsed over the choice of table for a key meeting.

The Democratic Unionists wanted the sides to sit opposite each other in order to "show they were still adversaries", whereas Sinn Fein wanted everyone to sit next to each other "to show they were partners and equals".

Mr Blair said the deal was only done after a Downing Street official suggested a diamond-shaped table "so they could sit both opposite and with each other".

The former premier also admitted that politicians were obliged from time to time to "conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it" in the interests of bigger strategic goals.

"Without operating with some subtlety at this level, the job would be well-nigh impossible," he said.

Despite his admission, Mr Blair said he felt that voters retained trust in him because he was trying to do his best for them. He also said the public discriminated between politicians they do not trust at a superficial level - "ie pretty much all of them" - and those they mistrusted on a deeper level.


From Belfast Telegraph