Tony Blair: I liked Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness 'more than I should have'
Published 01/09/2010 | 14:37
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have "courage in abundance" according to Tony Blair, who admits in his memoirs he liked them "more than I should have" during the peace process in the North.
Mr Blair paid extensive tribute to them in his book, saying they were "supreme masters of the distinction between tactics and strategy" and were "an extraordinary couple".
The former Prime Minister continued: "Whether you like them or not, and no matter how strongly you disapprove of their past actions, they had courage in abundance."
Mr Blair also discussed his conversations about God with then Democratic Unionist Party leader Reverend Ian Paisley, now Baron Bannside.
He said Dr Paisley asked him whether God would want him to make a peace deal. "I wanted to say yes, but I hesitated," wrote Mr Blair. "though I was sure God would want peace, God is not a negotiator."
Mr Blair also disclosed his ambivalence about the issue of whether he should shake hands with Adams and McGuinness when they met - the first time anyone from Sinn Fein had formally greeted a British Prime Minister.
"I just decided to do the thing naturally," wrote Mr Blair. "So they walked in, and we shook hands."
He said the decision provoked a fierce reaction from Unionists, including a bizarre ambush during a walkabout in the North in which "angry protesting grannies" shook rubber gloves at him.
"I thought they had just finished doing the washing up or something. When I told Jonathan [Powell] he roared with laughter and said, "No, it is because you should have worn rubber gloves when shaking hands with Gerry Adams."