My friendship with Blair helped bring peace to the North – Bertie
BERTIE Ahern has claimed he and Tony Blair had the closest friendship of any Taoiseach and British prime minister in the history of the State.
His comments come in a foreword for a new edition of the controversial diaries of Tony Blair's press secretary, Alastair Campbell.
The new edition, titled 'The Irish Diaries (1994-2003)', extracts all the material related to Ireland and the peace process from the original three-volume diaries.
They give a fresh insight into the personal relationship between the two leaders, and in the foreword Mr Ahern recalls "the long and difficult journey" towards peace in the North.
"When people ask me how we solved the problems in Northern Ireland and how we brought peace to somewhere that had for so long known only war and killing, my answer is invariably that it was not easy! It took patience – lots of it – and I would say it was 99pc perseverance and maybe 1pc inspiration.
"It also took a lot of stamina, and reading this diary reminds me again of the late-night meetings, the early-morning summits and the sheer physical demands of peacebuilding."
Mr Ahern makes clear that the close friendship he had with Mr Blair was a major factor in achieving the peace settlement.
"Alastair's book documents how closely and intensely Tony Blair and I worked together to achieve peace. We had the closest relationship between any British prime minister and Taoiseach in the history of the Irish State," Mr Ahern writes.
"I believe that this friendship between Tony and me was crucial in building an entirely new relationship between our countries," he adds.
'The Irish Diaries' will be launched in Dublin next Wednesday by broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan. Mr Campbell, who will be attending the launch, will be giving a lecture to the UCD Law Society that morning.