Tony Blair has admitted he lied to prevent the collapse of the North's peace process, in his new memoir “A Journey’ which launches today.
Blair said said he took “horrendous” chances and stretched the truth “past breaking point” as he sought to carve out a deal between unionists and nationalists who were often deadlocked on issues.
He also revealed a shocking incident with a leading Orangeman who described him as unfit to be prime minister because “my wife was a painted jezebel who claimed her allegiance to Rome”.
In his new autobiography Tony Blair has also stated that he developed very strong relationships with Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, and admitted he came to like them both greatly.
"They were an extraordinary couple," he said of the two men, who have been at the highest levels of republican movement since the early 1970s. "Over time I came to like both greatly, probably more than I should have, if truth be told … They were supreme masters of the distinction between tactics and strategy. They knew the destination and they were determined to bring their followers with them, or at least the vast bulk of them."
Recalling the first meeting with Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, Blair wrote: “They were not just hesitant or distrustful, they were sitting down with the enemy.
“For countless meetings at first, Martin would not simply want to negotiate, most of all he would want to explain his side’s purpose, its pain, its anger and its expectations.
“It took time before he came to regard me as a partner and even a friend.”
He says he never accepted that Sinn Fein and the IRA were one and the same.: "I came to the view that the SF/IRA relationship was a bit like that of the Labour leadership and the Labour party NEC [national executive committee]: yes the leadership is powerful, yes it usually gets its way, but not always and rarely without a lot of persuasion and discussion,”
He also reveals that he advised Ian Paisley to "let God guide him" in the final stages of the Northern Ireland peace negotiations that led to the end of The Troubles and the power-sharing government between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin in 2007.
Blair writes that he held long discussions about faith with the Reverend Ian Paisley, then leader of the DUP.
Blair writes that his meetings with Paisley in his Downing Street "den" were often "at a spiritual rather than a temporal level". Once Paisley gave him a prayer book for his youngest child, Leo.
Of one such meeting, he writes: "Once, near the end, he asked me whether I thought God wanted him to make the deal that would seal the peace process. I wanted to say yes, but I hesitated; though I was sure God would want peace, God is not a negotiator. I felt it would be wrong, manipulative, to say yes, and so I couldn't answer that question, that only he could and I hoped he would let God guide him.
He also revealed the final stages of North's peace process talks in 2007 almost collapsed over the choice of table for a key meeting.
The Democratic Unionists wanted the sides to sit opposing each other ito “show they were still adversaries”, whereas Sinn Féin wanted party leaders to sit next to each other “to show they were partners and equals”.
Blair said the issue was ony resolved after a Downing Street official suggested a diamond-shaped table “so they could sit both opposite and with each other”.
The former premier also admitted that politicians were obliged from time to time to “conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it” in the interests of bigger strategic goals.
“Without operating with some subtlety at this level, the job would be well-nigh impossible,” he said.