Tony Blair has described his late mother as an “almost saintly woman” whose death changed his life forever. Blair’s mother Hazel Blair was raised in Co. Donegal and came from what he described as a ‘fiercely Protestant’ family.

Speaking about his Irish roots, Blair said that he loved going to Ireland every year and the family would usually stay at the Sandhouse Hotel in Rossnowlagh, near Ballyshannon.

He wrote, “At that beach I learned to swim in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. I had my first go at chasing girls, aged about 11. I was taught my first chords on the guitar. I drank my first Guinness.”

Blair’s mother died from thyroid cancer when he was 22 and he explained the profound effect it had on his life.

“My world turned upside down, I could not imagine it,” he remembered. “Life was never the same after that. That was when the urgency took hold, the ambition hardened, the recognition grasped that life was finite and had to lived in that knowledge. I miss her every day of my life.”

His father and brother kept his mothers illness from him while he completed his final law exams in Oxford. Speaking about his victory in the 1997 general elections, he said his mother would have been “utterly proud."

He also spoke about how when he was growing up, Irish people were looked down as “inherently inferior” to the British.