• No please, the last thing we need in re/interpretations of Mandelson’s slitherings.

    Oh go on then!

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s well worth a listen… a bit of a coup for the Guardian… most candid account from inside the SoS’s office I can recall from anyone…

  • slug

    Thanks Mick.

    That was an extremely interesting interview and I have to say very damning, and all too believable, because its totally consistent with what the world thinks of Bliar. Someone who says what is convenient at the time, someone who has no principle.

    Oops, spelling mistake, Blair.

  • Mick Fealty

    Hmmm… “the Unionists will never know…” ah well, they do now, but when it’s too late of course… And he has just meters to go until the finishing line….

  • slug

    For others, I refer to the tape you can listen to. An absolute must for all with an interest in the peace process.

  • gerry

    Bloody brilliant. Was the side deal on Rita O’Hare ever fulfilled does anyone know?
    Side deals, the unionists have their proof of them now.

    LOL. Thanks mick


    The Brits really are a shoddy crew.

    Although it’s nice to see how the net can finally nail the half-arsed ‘it was taken out of context’ defence.

  • totally irresponsible of Mandelson to give this interview; after 26th March sure.
    He has the knack of screwing things up for the Prime Minister in a way that no-one else could even if they tried.
    peteb’s going to have a field day.

  • gerry

    The proverbial brown stuff is going to hit the fan. Everybody duck. Great stuff on policing issue. Thankyou guardian, thank you Mick. Now we know what really happened at weston park, the shinners and the OTR’s McGuinness and adams modernisers or back to the bad men, and they played on it. this is gonna go down in the history books.

  • mchinadog

    Well worth the listen, this is of course second nature to this duplicitous Government. Just a pity it had not been released before the elections last week and the DUP would have had an even better result 40+ MLA’s. If he has keep all his promises to the IRA and Sinn Fein, it is much more that he did for the Unionist population, of course he was dealing with pushover Unionism then, but it says something about the principles of the Prime Minister – he has none. I am sure like me the Unionist people are saddened at the lack of integrity of the most of our other SOS they had not the backbone to say what they felt to the PM they are all “YES MINISTER” men.

  • Mandelson-

    “If you didn’t give success to the modernisers [i.e. Adams and McGuinness], then power would pass back to the bad men.”

    Pesky securocrats, eh?

  • SuperSoupy

    It is worth noting that Mr Mandelson’s version of events may differ with reality and remembering that his integrity and honesty is very much open to question.

    Those who normally discount him now seem suddenly convinced he is a trustworthy source.

  • excellent point SuperSoupy

  • Henry94

    The process is the policy

    That does wonders for the credibility of the deadline.

  • merrie

    Mandy has not forgotten that Blair sacked him twice (forced him to resign). I sense a strong element of revenge in this interview.

    Much better for all of us that Mandy has moved on to Brussels to deal with shoe import quotas rather than more important matters like NI.

    He was an atrocious proconsul.


    Much better for all of us that Mandy has moved on to Brussels to deal with shoe import quotas rather than more important matters like NI.

    I don’t know about shoe imports per se, but he certainly knows how to put the boot in.

    More important to who?
    Not the majority of British, Irish or mainland Europeans I suspect.

  • SuperSoupy

    For a man that had his bacon saved by Blair after multiple transgressions he certainly doesn’t have any respect for or loyalty to his ‘friend’.

    A disgraced politician, given a top European job biting the hand that fed him now it can’t deliver any more benefits.

    I’m not surprised.

  • Mick Fealty


    Is that just a case of playing the man, or would you like to put your real name to a concrete allegation?

    Although I’d rather you put your own house rather than mine on the line, and have the courage to publish it on your own blog.

  • Mick Fealty



  • SuperSoupy


    I thought Mr Mandelson’s dishonesty was common knowledge. Don’t you remember it being found he had hidden his financial interests from both government and a financial instituition? It was the reason for his first resignation.

  • SuperSoupy

    His judgement hasn’t been the best in Europe either. Taking hospitality from Microsoft as it faced(faces) major EU investigation and sanction was ill-judged (at the very least) for a trade Commissioner.

    He is also a figure of ridicule for his recent request that he receive a Maserati as his official car.

  • Plum Duff

    I fully agree that it is riveting to see how the British Government, acting in their position as ‘honest broker’ (ho hum), thinks in terms of handling the two sides – or rather, IMO, as illustrated quite starkly on this occasion, one side. Mandleson doesn’t mention at all what the UUP demands were. All his comments were directed towards SF and their position.

    Then again why would he need to spell out unionism’s demands? It is the status quo of a NI incorporated within the UK; the government knows it and would not wish to change it until absolutely forced to – either by ballot or by bullet, to paraphrase a former player. They were not in that situation. It is quite obvious to me that Mandleson was acting purely and simply as a plenipotentiary for unionism while, at the same time, recognising that the Nationalist/Republican side had several issues that could be resolved around a negotiating table – but don’t ask for too much, greedy little Shinners. For a start, it really blows the ‘honest broker’ myth out of the water completely.

    But what I find really interesting is why, in the middle of some of the most tortuous and delicate negotiations in the history of the ‘Process’, Mandleson has chosen to give an interview of such depth and detail? Does anyone else consider the timing odd?

  • There couldn’t have been any other way except process, nursing along, and shepherding, till we got to the twin pillars ( Of Hercules )

    Legend has it that Atlantis is found beyond them.

    And I don’t see a Samson capable of pulling down those pillars to be more biblical.

  • Harris

    “The process is the policy.”

    Say what you will about Blair, but given the circumstances (deal with the modernizers or it’s basically back to the gun), I think he worked the policy as best he could.

    And say what you will about Sinn Fein, but in their brilliant negotiations, and as they were supposedly being “fed” and “sustained”, they were able to squeeze every last drop out of Blair and his process.

  • George

    Not good for the SDLP that tape.

    So it seems in the eyes of the British that Republicans are the ones who make the demands and nationalists are the ones who will accept what they are given.

  • Mick Fealty


    It’s worth looking at the extract from the FP essay here. As for the quality of the negotiations, I don’t we’ll know for sometime to come.

    The best you can say is that it was certainly win win for SF and the British. The latter got the war stopped and the former leveraged the process to maximum party advantage.

    As for the party’s larger claims on unification, like the French Revolution, it is too early to say.

  • Fred Allan

    Right, forget the party posturing. Is there anything in this which is surprising? No. The policy was and is the process. From a British point of view, if the paramilitaries are not killing people, then, at its most basic, the policy is succeeding. Much as I loath Blair, to argue that to prevent the initiative passing from the ‘modernisers’ to the ‘bad men’ was unprincipled is a nonsense. The is real politik and it’s obvious that the hard-bitten parties to the agreement and subsequent developments understand this.

    Mandelson’s intervention may not seem quite so stupid. Maybe, by revealing the scaffolding of the phase hopefully passing, restored power-sharing might have more chance of actually working. The DUP can huff and puff a bit, vindicated, SF can be self-important, proud of the hard bargain they struck, but overall NI politics move on from the double-think of the previous decade towards the tough realities of government, which involves politicians doing a proper day’s work…

  • Steve Reid

    Fascinating stuff. Forgive my ignorance but what is ‘Don’s book’ that Mandelson refers to in the interview?

  • Nevin

    Don’s book – “Mandelson: And the Making of New Labour by Donald Macintyre”?

  • Plum Duff

    “…‘Don’s book’ that Mandelson refers to…”

    Already telegraphing a future denial. ‘Them’s Don’s words. Nuffing to do wiv me, Guv’.

  • mickhall

    Apart from hearing it from one of the participants, there is nothing new and we should all question why now, as Madelson will not bite his masters. [who they are is the question, although he is the type who can serve more than one master?]

    The process is the policy is something we have been saying for a long time, the point was to get SF on the treadmill and keep them there with tit bits until there heads spun and the Stockholm complex set in etc.. and so it goes on.

    Mandelson is being disingenuous, as if the security services would not have tipped off the leading Unionist politicians that much of what was being offered to SF was just that, an offer not an agreement or done deal. Thus the only time the Unionists could fall off the end of the table as PM put it, would be when the British wanted them to, or the unionist electorate had enough of their leaders.

  • Harris

    Regarding the concession part of the process/policy and what was being sustained and fed to republicans, it can be percieved in a few different lights.

    Firstly, in relation to armed republicans, it was always known that, the brits would concede as much as the IRA could win. Without arms, the brits would shape the compromises offered. The brits would only give way to Irish will deployed as physical force by the IRA. Without the reality or threat of physical force, there never was a reason (until recently) for the brits to deny themselves, or to accept their presence as wrong.

    With Adams and Sinn Fein hollowing out their republican principles and moving the IRA to abandon the gun, this allowed the brits/Blair to capitalize on his process/policy.

    Fortunatley for Sinn Fein, their so-called concessions were already secure, as Blair knew deep down that, without the carrots being delivered, and though Adams proclaimed otherwise, the threat of physical force republicanism was always there.

  • Intriguing that Mandelson believed that the Republicans were trying to push the Unionists out of the process by making excessive demands – yet he also says that there was no need to concede more because Intelligence showed that the Shinners had already made up their minds to go in. [Does that mean that they had made up their minds to decommission? I can’t think what else it would mean; it can’t mean they had decided to take seats on the executive since they had done that in 98.]

    Is there not a contradiction there? Does it mean the shinners wanted to stay with the process but were perfectly happy to poke the unionists in the eye and get them to walk out?

  • moyle rover

    Not sure of any contradiction there malachi, most political parties are quite happy to poke their opponents in the eye when given the opportunity. All politics is local, at it plays well with your own support base especially if you are swallowing a few bitter pills yourself.

  • Pete Baker


    “Does it mean the shinners wanted to stay with the process but were perfectly happy to poke the unionists in the eye and get them to walk out?”

    The question might be relevant to this, otherwise isolated, quote from Mitchel McLaughlin

    …asked to explain exactly what Sinn Féin had achieved for its supporters, media-disaster Mitchel spluttered for a moment before blurting out: “The degree of uncertainty and the lack of confidence in the unionist community!”

  • Henry94

    There’s that word community again.

    Because community implies grassroots legitimacy it is an ideal disguise for such top-down exercises in social control. Being so deliberately ill-defined it is also a tricky disguise to unmask.

    Or is that a different community?

  • Pete Baker

    Being so deliberately ill-defined it is also a tricky disguise to unmask.


    You did see who was being quoted?

    ANYway.. back to Mandelson..

  • páid

    Yeah, back to Mandelson. He thought that the OTR legislation would scupper the Unionists.

    Wrong there. Tony could see he was losing his touch.

    And as for Tony saying the process is the policy, he must be reading me on Slugger 🙂

    Argue all you like. Walk out. Demand. Reject. Elect. Bottom line –

    No one dies.

    And a damned good policy it is too.

  • The Dubliner

    Malachi, despite Mandelson using the word “calculated” (immediately qualified by “I believe”) on one of the numerous occasions in which he referred to the difficult task of giving “sweeties” to one child without sending its jealous sibling into a temper tantrum, the overall context of the discussion on the tape makes clear that Mandelson isn’t saying that republican strategy was to push the unionists out of the negotiations: he meant that granting too many concessions to Republicans would likely have that effect.

    He also meant that the “intelligence” was that PSF would continue to support devolution, despite demanding concessions on the same grounds that unionists were demanding concessions (i.e. the need to keep the get more for the tribe in order to keep the tribe onside). The period he referred to was December 1999. That was when full powers were first transferred to the Assembly. It has been stop-go since then – with the children demanding for more sweeties every step of the way.

    By the way, ‘the process is the policy’ has been Irish government policy from the start. Tony Blair clears agrees with it; and to his credit, has worked it well. Essentially, it was stated by the Irish as ‘violence fills a political vacuum’ and so there is a need to keep the space active even when it was effectively stalled. The ultimate aim being to create a period of peace that would make it very difficult to return to violence after people became accustomed to it. Albert Reynolds was very frank about this ‘policy,’ so I’m not sure why everyone is now feigning surprise.

  • The Dubliner

    In short: the longer the peace process continued, the more lasting the resultant peace was likely to be – even if nothing came out of it but a useless talking shop. 😉

  • páid

    And I wouldn’t rush to condemn the sdlp out of hand.

    From a green point of view, as regards the demise of the ruc, the stoops and the shinners played good cop / bad cop if ye’ll excuse the pun.

    From a comparison with the Treaty negs, Adams and McGuinness showed up, and left Big Tom at home.

    Unlike Dev.

    And came home and said it was the best they could do, and managed the troops.

    Fair play to them.

  • The Dubliner

    Paid, PSF got nothing that nationalists wouldn’t have gotten a lot sooner and with a lot less dead and maimed bodies if Adams and his sociopathic ilk didn’t decide that general slaughter, destruction and misery was a credible reunification option before eventually understanding that it wasn’t. The towers may have come down because of the political activities of PSF, but they only went up in the first place because of the militant activities of PSF/PIRA. What PSF actually did was push Irish unity further away by polarising unionists, making them associate Ireland with the slaughter of their community and making them see any discussion of the idea of unity as being tantamount to surrender to violent intimidation – a call to sell their souls. It was a hard sell before PSF, but it would take P.T. Barnum to sell it to this generation. And because of PSF’s political ineptitude in agreeing to the PoC, you now have to do the utterly impossible and sell Irish unity to the unionists.

    By the way, the reason PSF didn’t get all those “sweeties” in one go is that they were limited in supply and had to be dispensed over whatever period it took for the ‘peace process’ to become irreversible. So, don’t make the mistake of thinking that those concessions were won through hard bargaining by PSF when the reality is that they were deliberately withheld specifically for the purpose of rewards for jumping through hoops.

  • páid

    Actually Dub, I agree with the thrust of what you say, though the Troubles cannot be blamed solely on the IRA, no more than the Baghdad market place bombs can be solely blamed on the locals who plant them.

    Calling the Shinners sociopathic is a bit strong though. I am not a republican, but Adams and McGuinness deserve credit for helping to end the slaughter whilst keeping the wheels on the republican movement.

    And Nationalists like me are not interested in selling unity to the Unionists. They’ll make their own mind up in good time, but I agree it won’t happen whilst the shooting of Uncle Freddie is still fresh in the memory.

  • Fred Allan

    In what way is ‘sociopath’ a bit strong? Read Roglio Alonso, The IRA and Armed Struggle (2007). Brilliant analysis. Leading Provos recognised armed struggle wasn’t going to work from the mid-1980s, knowing they couldn’t inflict the kind of damage necessary to demoralise the British government (3,000 people died in Iraq last October…) and still people died. Those deaths were necessary to sustain the organisation and justify previous acts. Anyways, it’s not today’s subject.

  • Ziznivy

    “of course he was dealing with pushover Unionism then”

    What is manifestly clear is that the policy of concessions to nationalists was ongoing. What Trimble managed to do was to the wrest the process round to a point where unionists were once again involved and an active consideration.

  • kensei

    “Those deaths were necessary to sustain the organisation and justify previous acts. Anyways, it’s not today’s subject.”

    But there was no route out at that point – Hume-Adams hadn’t happened, no Downing Street Declaration etc. If the leadership had have made unilateral moves then you would have swapped a leadership that was looking for an out to a leadership that was more hard line. Additionally it may have been considered that in the wider strategic context war was better for republicanism at the time. The UK and US governments are essentially doing precisely the same in Iraq right now. It’s grim calculus.

  • Ziznivy

    Blair’s rise owed a great deal to Mandelson. He proceeded to hang him out to dry, twice. Most shamefully whilst SoS for here. The least Blair owed him was the EU job and if there is any bitterness here Mandelson is quite entitled to it.

  • páid

    You calculate correctly kensei.

    Adams got in as a young man. Getting out is not so easy, as Tony Blair knows well.

    But a scoop for the Guardian. Usually you have to wait 30 years to learn this kind of stuff.

  • The Dubliner

    “Calling the Shinners sociopathic is a bit strong though. I am not a republican, but Adams and McGuinness deserve credit for helping to end the slaughter whilst keeping the wheels on the republican movement.”

    páid, Adams and McGuinness are classic sociopaths. Lack of conscience, empathy, remorse, specific insight, etc, are all pointers to the condition. That form of [i]manie sans délire[/i] afflicts 4% of the population, so it isn’t so uncommon as to be remarkable. It is their moral insanity that sets them apart.

    Giving them “credit for helping to end the slaughter” ignores the salient fact that they helped to create and sustain that slaughter, and would have continued to do so if they didn’t calculate that their best interests were served by other methods – a calculation no doubt brought upon them by their infiltration by British Intelligence, the ever-increasing violence from the loyalist factions, and the lure of ‘respectability’ via party politics. It is simply spin to portray them as peacemakers when peace was chosen as a survival option and not as a moral one. That, however, was the packaging of the ‘peace process’ parcel – allowing them to make the transition from militancy to politics on the condition that they did what they were told to do, i.e. committed to exclusively peaceful means, decommissioned, etc, and encouraged others to do likewise.

    Nothing PSF has done post-ceasefire to promote the interests of a better society has been voluntary: it has all been demanded from them by the British and Irish governments (and other parties). Progress was made by the governments setting the agenda, telling PSF where they needed to be and making sure (by stick or carrot) that they moved there. The fact that they sold out every single ‘republican’ principle they professed to hold shows that they were never held as principles (sociopaths are devoid of such) but were simply expediencies that were used to justify their activities.

    Adams and McGuinness had no problem with accepting partition. In fact, they calculated that partition served their ‘new’ best interests and would allow them to be celebrated around the world as *ahem* peacemakers. A united Ireland was the last thing that Adams and McGuinness would have wanted from the post-ceasefire negotiations as that would have meant the death of PSF and their last realm of power. To that end, they called a ceasefire on the basis of the Downing Street Declaration (which said that Irish unity wasn’t an option without majority consent in Northern Ireland) and went into negotiations that were aimed at creating an internal settlement. If unity was declared to be an option as a result of PIRA ceasefire, then PSF/PIRA would have been defunct and all the negotiating would have been carried out between the Irish and British governments. So, partition works well for PSF: they get to be the stars of the show and get to prostitute Irish unity in the south for party-political (self-interest) purposes as they did in the north. Irish unity as far as the sociopaths, Adams and McGuinness, are concerned is simply an issue to be used for their own purposes. That’s how sociopaths operate.

    Now, I fully understand what self-determination is an inalienable right. It isn’t subject to the whims of others. No foreign government has the right to tell anyone that they must not resist its occupation by any means he or she deems applicable. So, any violence toward that aim is a matter for individual conscience (rather tricky when someone is socoipathic and devoid of one). The problem I have isn’t with individual volunteers who joined the Provisionals in good faith to seek self-determination, it is with the sociopaths who seized upon the legitimacy of the goal and perverted it by using it for non-valid purposes and against invalid targets with no possibility of success.

    Louis Jolyon West defines a cult as “a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgement, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of [consequences of] leaving it, etc) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.”

  • The Dubliner


    I also don’t except the spin that the two sociopaths at the had of the provisional movement had to bring PIRA’s Army Council along with them since they controlled it and the sheep in PSF/PIRA always did what they were told. 95% of them voting to endorse the Crown Forces in Ireland (despite spending the previous 35-years in violent opposition on the ‘principled’ grounds of opposing the legitimacy of British rule and the forces of occupation) show once again that that the provisional movement operates along the lines of a cult. The leaders have indoctrinated its members with a fear of internal debate, censoring it on the pretext that debate leads to dissent and dissent leads to splits (and that is Perfidious Albion seeking to divide and conquer them). So, they only listen to what the leaders tell them; and no one else, even the members are given precedence. Further, they have indoctrinated their members with the belief that all external voices are not to be listened to: that everyone else is seeking to defeat the provisional republican movement by spreading nefarious propaganda, spin, and outright lies about it. It is that solidarity that Provisionals proffer as their greatest strength when it was actually their greatest weakness. The members were led to a place by their leaders (at the behest of the governments) where they never wanted to be: locked into a United Kingdom with an assimulation campaign just beginning. Apart from anything else, fostering this cult mentality is makes it highly susceptible to the will of its leaders – and whomever leads the leaders.