RTE’s celebration of John Hume feels like nostalgia for a time that has gone

RTE have just screened a documentary In the Name of Peace; John Hume in America by Maurice Fitzpatrick which the film maker has kindly drawn to my attention. Being in London I cannot access it yet nor have I read his accompanying book. But from the YouTube trail, this is a major celebration of John Hume’s life and work. Anybody who was anybody is in it, led by Clinton and Blair, although Jimmy Carter was not quite so dazzled.  As … Read more

Clinton: “Keep the cranes up. Keep the voices free. Keep the votes fair. You’ll figure it out.” #GFA20

Political leaders of old and today gathered at Queen’s University, Belfast for a day of events focussed on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said that people “should realise that this agreement was never going to support all the problems of Northern Ireland” while former US President Bill Clinton had a triptych of advice for NI: “Keep the cranes up. Keep the voices free. Keep the votes fair. You’ll figure it out.”

New book on Martin McGuinness launching this week

  Martin McGuinness’ untimely death has loomed large over the suspension of our political institutions and the collapse of trust that has defined the period since. His elevation as a statesman in the post-Good Friday Agreement era surprised many and it is no exaggeration to say that he will be remembered in time as the pre-eminent figure in the early devolution period who more than anyone else kept the institutions afloat and worked power-sharing between the most unlikely partners of … Read more

Tony Blair assures EU that May is sincere about a frictionless border; sees need for small amendment to the GFA

Am I on my own in becoming weary of  yet another of the great and  good  speaking in general terms about the future of the Border?  Tony Blair, addressing a European People’s Party gathering in Co Wicklow  was at pains to  declare his confidence in Theresa May’s sincerity over wanting a “ frictionless “border, even though  by rejecting  continuing membership of the single market and free movement   she has made it the  problem without a solution so far. “I … Read more

Fianna Fail must not make the same mistake with Bertie, that Labour have with Blair

1st May 2017, marked the 20th anniversary of the election of Tony Blair as British Prime Minister. For the current Labour Leadership, a huge part of their existence is owed to a repudiation of the Blair years with its mix of missed opportunities and misadventures such as the War in Iraq. Fianna Fail and Ireland face another anniversary over the coming weeks as the 6th June marks the 20th anniversary of the 1997 General Election which brought Bertie Ahern to … Read more

Tony Blair has made the case for a rethink on Brexit and Northern Ireland will need a new financial deal. Is anybody listening?

Hurtling at us like a comet but unnoticed by the local worthies is the prospect for repatriating powers direct from Brussels to Stormont, Holyrood and Cardiff Bay. Among them are powers over agriculture and energy, which in Ireland are linked or integrated north and south. How they’ll be divvied up is  hasn’t  even been examined. The British government retain a substantial interest in these areas where powers currently rest with Brussels as it  negotiates new trading arrangements to replace membership … Read more

The past, present and future of Tony Blair

He could have gone down as one of the great Prime Ministers of all time, a man who took over a fractured and beaten political party, won three consecutive elections and as the Prime Minister that brought peace to Northern Ireland. These are enormous achievements for any politician but instead he will be damned as a man who led his country into an unnecessary and illegal war, some allege he is a unrepentant war criminal lacking only a trial and a cell. … Read more

US President Bill Clinton: “We’ve all taken our licks for Gerry”.

The BBC’s freedom of information specialist, Martin Rosenbaum, has been reading through transcripts of calls and meetings between US President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, between 1997 and 2000, which were released following a BBC freedom of information request to the Clinton Presidential Library. As he notes, [The transcripts] contain substantial redactions, especially of Mr Blair’s remarks… From the BBC report Much of their discussion was about the Northern Ireland peace process, in which President Clinton played a significant part. … Read more

On the anointing of Corbyn

At 11.30am yesterday in the room where the Labour leadership result was to be announced there was an uninvited guest: a spectre who had hovered over every party gathering for almost twenty years. Then when the result was announced an older yet spritely man strode forward to do battle with the spectre. Wearing his priestly garb of not a tie (though he did have a dark sports jacket and had removed any Lenin style hats) he approached the lectern. Then … Read more

Thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s un-electability

I have been trying to write something on the Labour leadership election for a while now but keep getting put off. Rather than look at the election itself it might be interesting to look at two of the supposed truisms with surround the election and specifically Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign: that Corbyn as Labour leader would be unelectable and that only a Blairite Labour position can win a UK general election. The standard view is that Corbyn is unelectable. He is … Read more

Return of Blair: “This is what I call the theory that the electorate is stupid…”

So, in a world of blandness, an old New Labour blade returned to a rather more public sofa at a Progress event today, coinciding with a poll that suggests the Labour masses prefer a little old left Labour grit in their leadership cocktail… Here’s some clips from YouTube before the main event… “We should use defeat as an opportunity….” “This is what I call the theory that the electorate is stupid…” “So yes, move on. But don’t, for heaven’s sake, … Read more

Tony Blair: Believed OTR Letters were essential in getting Sinn Fein on board and left to DUP there would’ve been no peace process

Tony Blair stepped up to the On The Runs Committee today to give evidence about the now infamous letters issued partly under his administration. Between the hard questioning led by Naomi Long and Ian Paisley Jnr, the most important pieces of information throughout the entire day came from a slightly softer approach adopted by Sylvia Hermon and Alasdair McDonnell. Blair told MPs that there was a point in December 2006 where he believed that they almost lost the entire peace … Read more

Two centuries on, how Special has this Relationship been?

It must rank as one of the most spectacular early Christmas presents ever.  Exactly two hundred years ago, representatives of the British and American governments met in the Flemish city of Ghent to agree a Peace Treaty, ending the increasingly-misnamed War of 1812.  OK, it did not mean that all the fighting was yet over: the two countries’ armies would meet in one final battle in New Orleans just over two weeks later, in which the Americans comprehensively thrashed their … Read more

Jonathan Powell: The Lessons of Northern Ireland

Following the launch of his new book ‘Talking to Terrorists,” former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell, writes exclusively for Slugger about the lessions he learned from his time working on the Northern Ireland peace process The Northern Ireland negotiations were the most difficult and frustrating challenge I faced in my life, but also, at least in retrospect, my most important and satisfying achievement. Since leaving government I have set up an NGO, Inter Mediate, to … Read more

Victims of Gadaffi’s arms imports to the IRA shouldn’t get their hopes up

This is one of the most acute problems of Northern Ireland today- politicians raising hopes for victims that stand little or no chance of being fulfilled. As an anti-cynic I’m prepared to believe that David Cameron’s meeting with a DUP delegation over reviving compensation claims against Libya disclosed in the Sunday Telegraph wasn’t just a clumsy diversion effort from the Adams arrest (wrong constituency and timing ).At least it got Peter Robinson into Downing St, a rare occurrence these days.   It reads like … Read more

OTR crisis begins to abate: totally inappropriately

The crisis has begun to abate, without the direct threat of Stormont collapsing in the immediate future. Despite various claims from the predictable sources in both former government and pliant media circles this was and remains a major scandal and a colossal indictment of the whole political process. The first suggestion at minimising the relevance of these events has been that the suggestion that these letters to suspected terrorists as arranged by Sinn Fein (was the old term Sinn Fein … Read more

“Just to confuse matters, some elements of the tale of the On The Runs appear to have been hidden in plain sight.”

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport with, perhaps, the best description of the mechanism used to address the issue of on-the-runs.  From Mark Devenport’s BBC blog While republicans insist unionists knew all about what was happening to the On The Runs, that is not strictly true. Senior PSNI officers answered some questions posed by Northern Ireland Policing Board members and the scheme got a glancing reference in the voluminous Eames-Bradley report on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles. But when former … Read more

#ShinnersList: “…old hatreds have not been buried. The old injustices have been replaced by new ones.”

Charles Moore in the Telegraph reprises Peter Preston’s 2007 theme of poisonous foundations: On one thing, Jonathan Powell is quite correct. The indignation of Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland, notably the First Minister, Peter Robinson, is utterly synthetic. Mr Robinson says he was not informed – and that may, strictly speaking, be the case. But he could have found out about these comfort letters in 10 minutes if he had tried. It was much more convenient for him not to … Read more

“during the Derry visit, Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson were nowhere to be seen, surely mindful of their upcoming trade mission to China.”

According to an Irish News report today …OFMDFM has refuted any suggestion that the Stormont leaders snubbed the Dalai Lama when he visited Derry last month. A spokesperson for OFMDFM said the ministers were unable to attend “due to prior diary commitments”. Which is fine…  After all, “diary pressures” was the same excuse Tony Blair gave in 2004 when he was accused of snubbing the Tibetan leader – although they had already met in 1999 in a “spiritual capacity”.  And it appears … Read more

“There are sometimes occasions when frank disagreements arise between states…”

After meeting with the Finucane family to discuss the UK government’s decision “to conduct an independent review to produce a full public account of any state involvement in the murder”, rather than open an inquiry under the 2005 Inquiries Act, UTV reports Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore’s comments Speaking after a meeting with the Finucane family on Monday afternoon he said: “There are sometimes occasions when frank disagreements arise between states. “This is one on this occasion.” …… Mr … Read more