Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has confirmed that British prime minister Tony Blair edited IRA statements in the course of the peace process, saying it was “normal in a process of negotiation”.
The disclosure that Mr Blair redrafted an IRA statement in the presence of Mr Adams was made in a new book by his former chief of staff Jonathan Powell.
Mr Powell also claimed to have regularly redrafted Sinn Féin statements.
This week, Mr Adams admitted that statements had been exchanged and said republicans had also helped write British government statements during the peace process.
“It is normal in a process of negotiations for opponents to exchange drafts and seek to persuade the others to use words or language that would be helpful,” he said.
“Sinn Féin exchanged drafts at different times with the British and Irish governments and with the unionists. All of them used words suggested by Sinn Féin.
“The success of this approach is evident in the advances that have been made and the fact that the political institutions are now functioning.”
Powell’s book, serialised in a daily newspaper, also claimed that the former Prime Minister repeatedly asked Mr Adams if he could meet the IRA’s Army Council.
Mr Adams confirmed the request had been made but said he had declined because “the leadership of the IRA did not feel that such a meeting would be helpful to the process”.
In his book on the peace process, Mr Powell said the Prime Minister had suggested the IRA men “could have worn masks” to conceal their identities during any meetings.
“Tony was always convinced of the powers of persuasion that he had to win people over,” Mr Powell said.
“About three or four times he suggested to Gerry Adams that he should meet the IRA Army Council. Adams said: ‘Well I’m not really sure about that’.
“One time he said ‘yes, maybe’, but then it came to nothing.”
The following are some of the other claims made by Powell in his book:
- Brendan Duddy, a County Derry businessman, had been “the key” to a secret link between Sinn Féin and the British government and risked his life to allow it to happen between 1973 and 1993.
- Ian Paisley’s DUP also developed secret links to Sinn Féin after their success in the 2003 assembly elections. The claim has been denied by the DUP.
- At their first Downing Street meeting, Tony Blair asked if the Sinn Féin president could tell his people there was no possibility of a united Ireland. Mr Adams replied that “the question was rather how he could bring his people along... to show them there was an alternative way forward.” At its conclusion Mr Blair told key aides “he was pleased that Adams seemed to accept he would have to live with “something less than a united Ireland” as the outcome of the peace process.
- During their first meeting in Belfast, Adams offered Blair an Irish bog wood saying he hoped it was the only bit of Ireland he would keep.
- Blair was forced to offer Sinn Féin a deal to release political prisoners after just a year instead of two years, but Adams never pursued it.
- Adams and McGuinness told Blair that a serious ‘Real IRA’ threat was behind the IRA’s failure to decommission.
- IRA leader Brian Keenan was seen as central to decommissioning. Powell said he didn’t think Adams or McGuinness could have won over the IRA without Keenan’s approval.
- The head of the British Army in Ireland threatened to resign over Blair’s decision to remove watchtowers from south Armagh.
- Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness told the British government there was no need for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Mr McGuinness has denied this -- he said the comment only was made in the context of his call for the British government “to come out with its hands up and admit the truth of Bloody Sunday”.
- At one stage in the negotiations, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were found in the garden at Downing Street learning how to skate with the Blair children.