Jonathan Powell isn’t the only one with a book out to mark the 10th anniversary of the 1998 agreement. The Irish Times today notes [subs req] the publication of a revised edition of The Far Side of Revenge by Deaglán de Bréadún, the paper’s political correspondent – the title is another quote from The Cure at Troy. The report highlights the evolution of the back-channel of communication to “a semi-permanent team of negotiators from the different sides: London, Dublin and Sinn Féin.” And that, “This provided an underlying structure for the negotiations, although it meant that sometimes senior civil servants would be brought into meetings ahead of ministers, who would be left waiting outside.” Of course there were other interested parties. But the most interesting extract, on The Process, is this
“These officials even became adept at making the usual gestures towards republican core values while at the same time ‘trying to get in a couple of things we wanted’. Some might see this as a corruption of the democratic process, but underlying the whole endeavour was a simple desire, simply expressed: stop the killing.”
The author quotes a senior Irish negotiator as saying that Tony Blair and his top adviser Jonathan Powell brought a new note of pragmatism to the British government’s approach: “Their attitude was, ‘Let’s stop the killing and worry about the detail later’.”
Meanwhile there’s another extract of interest from Powell’s book in the Guardian
Powell even found himself holding talks with Gerry Adams in the No 10 gents in March 2000 as they tried to break the impasse over decommissioning:
Adams first indicated to me that quiet meetings might prove productive when he came into No 10 on March 21 to talk about the IRA tradition of dumping weapons. His suggestion was that dumping could serve as a confidence-building measure. After the meeting he insisted I follow him into the ground-floor toilet, so we could speak away from his people, and possibly our bugs, to ask me to come up with some ideas on how this could be done, and then come over to see him.