Tony Blair: “We were absolutely open with people.”

It’s worth noting Tony Blair’s response to Reg Empey’s claim that “We now know that the foundation of St Andrews was built on lie after lie.”

Here’s what Tony Blair told the Irish Times

“That’s absolute nonsense,” he retorts. “One of the things I have done in the book is that I have tried to be honest. Now what people actually sometimes say is that we want a honest politician.

“They say ‘hey, you are not a saint. That’s not what we expected. It’s not what we should expect’.”

“The St Andrew’s Agreement was not actually one of the examples I would give of stretching the truth at all. We were absolutely open with people. The reason we got the deal was because of the speech that called for acts of completion, which mean that in the end we did come to a very honest position.”

And he’s right.  Both NI parties knew exactly what was on the table at St Andrews.  And what wasn’t.

Despite Martin McGuinness’ later misunderstanding, his subsequent apparent understanding, his party’s then 5 month sulk as the generals looked over their shoulders, the further processing, and, more recently, threats of political consequences, the passing around of the same script, and, eventually, after another manufactured crisis, [in Feb 2010] the latest [Hillsborough] ‘indigenous’ deal.

In December 2006, post-St Andrews and around the time that Tony Blair admits to “stretching the truth, I fear, on occasions past breaking point”, Mick noted Gerry Adams’ position

Gerry Adams: “I am not in a position to call a meeting. Others are playing politics…” He needs a two thirds majority on the Ard Chomhairle to call a party wide Ard Fheis.

The problem being the conditions his own party had placed on the leadership for calling a special Ard Fheis on policing.

Nothing had changed by the end of the year.  At which point Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff spelt it out

Barry McElduff, a Sinn Fein MLA, said yesterday that his party required a firm date for the devolution of policing and justice powers before it would formally endorse the PSNI.

And, with the smell of “panic” in the air, Tony Blair did the best he could to oblige.

To avoid any confusion, Ian Paisley Snr clarified his party’s position

“I do not agree with the statement of the Prime Minister when he claims that we, the DUP, agreed there could be devolution of policing and justice within a certain time limit,” he said.

“Sinn Fein have said there was a date … this is a completely untrue statement.”

But, as Gerry Moriarty said at the time, “Mr Adams has to jump”.

And jump he did.

Given how important having a deadline on the devolution of policing powers was to Sinn Féin – “British government’s commitment to the devolution of Policing and Justice Powers by May 2008 was central to the decision of republicans” – and the subsequent problems caused when they realised there wasn’t one, you might have thought that Tony Blair’s recent admission to “stretching the truth, I fear, on occasions past breaking point” around that time would have raised a few eyebrows within the party.

So far, they are the only party not to have commented on it.

At the time, of course, the US administration had accepted the DUP’s argument that support for policing was an integral part of any deal.

Cuckoo, indeed.

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