Tony Blair and his Book
Deaglán de Bréadún
Back in the swing this week. Didn’t miss much, news-wise, in my time off. The big story last week was Tony Blair and his visit to Dublin to promote his autobiography. Haven’t read the whole thing but the Northern Ireland chapter has an astonishing howler, in that he describes the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings as taking place in Belfast rather than Derry (at least he didn’t have to agonise over calling it Derry or Londonderry.)
Another strange one in the NI chapter is where he refers to unionist demands for the closure of Maryfield, site of the controversial Anglo-Irish secretariat set up under the agreement of 1985. In the Good Friday talks, Blair and Co thought this was “Murrayfield”, the famed Scottish rugby ground (one must allow for Ulster accents of course.) But Maryfield (outside Belfast) was in the eye of the storm for years. Funny that the PM and his colleagues hadn’t heard of it. Makes you wonder.
In fairness, Blair did put a helluva lot of work into the peace process and it was no surprise to hear a report that the people queueing up at the book-signing in Dublin outnumbered the protesters by three to one. I am a bit puzzled by the presence of the pro-Palestinian campaigners at the protests. I would have thought Blair was one of the good guys in that particular context, along with George Mitchell, who did very good work in the North. The attendance of the anti-peace process republicans and the far-left was to be expected.
Blair’s historic error was lining up with George W. Bush to invade Iraq on the basis of what we now know was wrong information about weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was a harsh and oppressive dictator, no question about that, but there are plenty of authoritarian regimes around that are just left alone because overthrowing them doesn’t suit the interests of the West. Indeed, some of these regimes are flattered and courted, e.g. China.
Interesting mini-row in the Letters page of The Irish Times over a visit by one of my colleagues to Burma for a travel piece. Shouldn’t have gone there, is the message. Funny, we never hear that said about one-party Cuba with all its political prisoners? The Burma regime sounds pretty awful but I have doubts as to the value of a tourism boycott. It is often said that the tourist trade in Spain under the Franco dictatorship contributed significantly to liberalisation and, ultimately, democratisation. Putting a country in quarantine isn’t always the best policy for the citizens.
All civilly-worded comments are welcome. Good manners will get you everywhere.