Lives Remembered

Peter Temple-Morris: Conservative MP who built trust and relationships across the Irish Sea

Peter Temple-Morris played a vital role in the establishment of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in 1990

BERTIE Ahern described him as “a key player in the work of delivering peace”.

Martin McGuinness said he was “one of the most honourable British politicians I have ever met”.

The British Irish Parliamentary Assembly said he "recognised that in the difficult times of the Troubles the way forward was dialogue".

Peter Temple-Morris, who has died aged 80, was a key figure in the establishment of the latter body in 1990 to promote co-operation and understanding between political representatives in Britain and Ireland.

The Conservative MP, who defected to Labour near the end of his Commons career, recalled that it had its genesis in a lunch in the unlikely surroundings of South Korea where he got talking to several leading TDs and "a plan emerged to bring our two delegations and parliaments together".

After years of lobbying the British government, what was then the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body was launched under the joint chairmanship of Temple-Morris and Fianna Fáil TD Jim Tunney and its success in building trust and relationships helped create the climate for the Good Friday Agreement.

Temple-Morris also found himself directly involved in the delicate peace process - in July 1995 he privately met Irish political leaders including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to carry the warning to John Major of a risk of a resumption of IRA violence. The Canary Wharf bomb followed, before the efforts of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern helped get people talking again.

Ahern said he was "an insider in the Irish peace process and he played an honourable and brave role in ensuring the triumph of constitutional politics over violence", while Blair paid tribute to his "tireless commitment to achieving peace for the people of Northern Ireland".

A dapper and genial figure, Temple-Morris was firmly from the moderate, pro-European wing of the Conservative Party but admitted he seemed at first sight an unlikely friend of Ireland.

"Ireland and the injustices of history have always had a fascination for me and I had a wish to contribute in some way toward better times," he said.

"Time and again in Ireland I was asked why an English Tory like me was so interested in Irish matters. My answer was that I come from Wales and have a lot of Celtic blood in me."

Born in Cardiff in 1938, Temple-Morris was the son of a Conservative MP and practised as a barrister before being elected MP for Leominster in Herefordshire in 1974, a seat he held until 2001.

He did not see eye-to-eye with Margaret Thatcher and never served in her cabinet, saying of the Iron Lady: "I could not stand being lectured and hectored by someone who would not let you get a word in edgeways.”

Increasingly disillusioned with a party that had become "more nationalistic and less European in sympathy", he finally left after Tony Blair's election as prime minister in 1997 - initially sitting as an Independent One-Nation Conservative before formally joining the ranks of Labour.

Temple-Morris later sat in the House of Lords and published a book, Across the Floor: A Life in Dissenting Politics. Inevitably, he described the result of the EU referendum as “disastrous”.

He died on May 1 and is survived by his wife Taheré Khozeimé-Alam, a niece of a former Iranian prime minister, and their four children.

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