Belfast Telegraph

Blair's pride over Northern Ireland

Tony Blair has claimed the Northern Ireland peace process was one of the few times in politics he felt proud.

In his first live television interview since his memoirs were published, Mr Blair said he knew power sharing in the north was worth striving for when he became prime minister in 1997.

The former PM described watching former Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness sitting together publicly for the first time.

"It was just such a strange and extraordinary sight and one of the few times in politics I felt really proud actually," Mr Blair said.

Mr Blair recalled the negotiations in an interview on Irish state broadcaster RTE at the end of the week which saw his memoirs, A Journey, smash sales records.

Mr Blair described former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern as a friend and repeated the assessment of him he used in the book as cunning.

"He became a good friend," he said. "He behaved with extraordinary skill towards this thing because it was difficult. Both of us in this sense had the same feeling about it - that it might be difficult but it was worth trying to do and worth trying for."

Mr Blair added: "Sometimes you've got to be smart to get around these problems. They require creativity, they require imagination and they require an ability to get where you need to get to.

"That's cunning in the best sense.

"It was really hard. You were having conversations with people - particularly when you sat down with the Sinn Fein people and the Unionists - these were people with a bitter and entrenched hatred. So there was quite a bit of cunning."

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