Tony Blair was Sinn Fein’s ‘secret channel’ to the DUP…

Malachi O’Doherty was in south west Scotland (the First Minister was speaking there) last week, for their equivalent of the Hay on Wye book festival. He picked up some interesting detail (but which may or may not now just be historical historical detail). It relates to a period in the process when Gerry Adams was negotiating terms on which he might call an Ard Fheis on policing. During those negotiations, Adams said that he had not been talking directly to Ian Paisley but that he had a mediator (as we noted at the time: “without revealing who, when, or for how long”).Intriguingly Malachi reports:

Paisley told a story about how Tony Blair had phoned him up seven times during new year’s Day 2007 to try to get him to agree to a form of words that would enable Sinn Fein to commit to policing. Read his speech in this light and you realise that Blair was the mediator and that he was trying to secure for Adams a weaker commitment to policing than Paisley was demanding.

As if to emphasise Blair’s lack of success on behalf of Sinn Fein, here’s Robinson’s statement on the very next working day:

…as there is now no prospect in the foreseeable future of establishing the trust essential to re-activate executive devolution in either a mandatory or voluntary form, local politicians must calculate whether they mark time hoping that somewhere in the distant future we will find the circumstances needed to propel us to that level of belief and conviction in which executive devolution can survive and flourish or whether we should attempt to get devolution off the ground by establishing a non-executive form of devolution within which local decisions can be taken while we test the paramilitary and criminal activity of republicans, curtail the excesses of the Labour government and start building the political confidence from the ground up.

Malachi concludes:

The policy was: Give a thug a break.

It is the same policy that Shaun Woodward SOS is exercising today as he celebrates the great progress made by the UDA towards decommissioning, leaving Margaret Ritchie stranded now if she sitcks to her (demand for) guns.

Meanwhile, it would seem that some of the questions being asked by the DUP back then have still to be answered.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty