Belfast Telegraph

Tony Blair's creative ambiguity was to prove crucial in winning peace

By David Gordon

So Tony Blair admits to stretching the truth “on occasions past breaking point” during the Northern Ireland peace process.

Well, who knew? He used to call it “creative ambiguity” — the Government practice of speaking out of both sides of their mouths at the same time, giving contradictory “assurances” to rival negotiators.

So it was that unionists thought decommissioning was a nailed-on condition of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

It wasn't, and David Trimble's “no guns, no government” stance become an epitaph for his political career.

Likewise, when voters here were led to believe a return of devolution in 2007 would save them from water charges for forever and a day.

All they really got was a deferral and now there's a £200m-a-year gap to be plugged by Stormont on top of all the cutbacks.

Blair's “breaking point” admission within his memoirs will really make little or no difference.

His overall legacy is already tied up with Iraq and what Parliament and the people were told about weapons of mass destruction as a justification for war.

Many of those who now detest the ex-Prime Minister for Iraq will still say a word or two in his favour on Northern Ireland.

Creative ambiguity worked, after all, in the end.

He may be hounded for years to come by protesters wielding ‘Bliar’ placards. But the general consensus on Northern Ireland will be that he was a good thing here.

His memoirs add little to the sum of knowledge on the peace process, meanwhile.

They are fairly bland for the most part, with a few excruciating phrases.

Police stuck in the middle of the Drumcree violence are described as “poor things” for example.

He says he used to see the “marvellous” Women's Coalition party “just to remind myself there were normal people in Northern Ireland”.

And he concludes with a suggestion that the province “rejoined the rest of the world” with the 2007 power-sharing agreement.

A profound observation or a banal cliche?

You decide.

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