Chris Thornton has been over the Guardian’s Mandelson tape, and picked out some of the detailed highlights. Effectively, he makes explicit what many Unionists and members of the SDLP have believed for some time: ie, that Blair privileged Sinn Fein and the IRA over other constitutional players.
“One problem with Tony, Tony’s fundamental view of Northern Ireland, is that the process is the policy, that as long as the process is being sustained and nurtured and as long as you are giving plenty of evidence that you believe in the process, even if you can do nothing else, that is sufficient policy. The process is the policy, he used to say.”
He added: “The only thing I would say about that is that what Tony would sometimes do, in order to keep the process on track, would be to appear to, or, in reality, accept, or indicate that he was giving proper consideration to, in a way that it was likely to be agreed and happen, republican demands which in my view were excessive and unreasonable.
“But secondly, more importantly, calculated to push the unionists off the other end of the table. So, in order to keep the republicans at the table – you know they would be constantly tugging the blanket their way – I would say, ‘Look, they’re having too much of the blanket. We’ve got to allow the unionists to tug it back a bit their way’.”
However, with Rita O’Hare still languishing (if that’s the right description) in New York, it’s clear that Blair’s inability to deliver on his soto voce promises were not entirely one way.