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Mallon: Leaders wanted peace for their own glory

Seamus Mallon, now 79, says Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern allowed Sinn Féin to set the agenda in the peace process

A FORMER deputy first minister has castigated the peace process leadership of Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, saying they were in it for their own glory.

The then taoiseach and prime minister were so keen to become known as peacemakers that they made the “fundamental mistake” of allowing Sinn Féin into government before the IRA decommissioned its arms, Seamus Mallon, pictured, has said.

In a devastating account of their leadership, the former SDLP deputy leader said Mr Blair and Mr Ahern allowed Sinn Féin to set the agenda because they “wanted big handshakes and to be known throughout the world as the men of peace who had brought the warring tribes together”.

The 79-year-old, a key figure in the peace process, said that although the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was a “great step forward”, it was part of a “flawed process” which ignored middle-ground nationalism and unionism in favour of “the extremes”.

“The Anglo Irish Agreement [1985] and the Joint Declaration [1993] were based by the two governments on the strategy that you built out from the middle,” he said.

“Now that changed to a position where you told the middle to f*** off in reality and brought in the extremes and there is where I believe it was flawed.”

He was particularly critical of Mr Blair, who he said was a “tremendous performer within the Commons, and the media” but a man “who had a 
moral position on everything and had no compunction about acting immorally”.

When asked if he thought Mr Blair was a hypocrite he said: “Oh God yes, I have no problem with that at all.”

Mr Mallon insisted that if the British and Irish governments had told Sinn Féin they would not be allowed into government until the IRA got rid of its arms “they would have done it [decommissioned] because they were holding onto the arms as a political weapon”.

He said the governments’ failure “devalued and tarnished the Agreement and the currency of politics”.

The former Newry and Armagh MP also claimed “sanctioned” IRA “racketeering” is still going on his former constituency.

“I am talking about a county where there is a huge black economy,” he says in an interview in today’s Irish Catholic.

Asked if he believes if the IRA still holds significant sway in the constituency he said: “It holds sway in parts of it where the people who live there are literally in fear of their lives”.

Mr Mallon stepped down as deputy first minister in 2001 to care for his wife Gertrude who was ill with dementia.

He revealed that after he retired as an MP in 2005 he declined a peerage.

“From my political perspective I want Britain out of here,” he said.

“Wouldn’t it be gross hypocrisy, if holding the political views that I have, an act of gross hypocrisy for me to become a Peer of the Realm that I wanted to disengage from?”

Mr Mallon also rejected suggestions that the SDLP may join the Ulster Unionists in an opposition at Stormont.

“We had 80 odd years sitting on the sidelines – not going back there,” he said.

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