George Bush has intervened in the Northern Irish peace process in his first active role in politics since leaving the White House.
He called Conservative party leader David Cameron on Friday and urged him to get Ulster Unionists to vote for a key package on policing and justice set to be decided today. The Guardian newspaper broke the news in a lead story on Tuesday morning
Bush made a direct plea to David Cameron because his party and the Ulster Unionist have agreed a pact in the British general election set for early summer.
However, the Bush intervention failed as Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey has now stated that his party will vote against the package. Ulster Unionist support is not necessary for the pact to pass, as the largest unionist party the DUP is voting for it, but their refusal to sign up sends a worrying signal.
This is despite the fact that an opinion poll yesterday showed 75 per cent of the people of Northern Ireland in favor of the policing and justice deal.
Bush called Cameron last Friday to ask him to use his political muscle to ensure that the package, one of the last pieces of the puzzle in the peace process, will be passed
One source quoted by The Guardian stated : "The fact that George W Bush has decided to intervene is really significant. He was interested in the peace process as president and appointed an envoy. It is a general sign of how concerned people are in the US about what David Cameron is up to.
"There was a feeling that a conservative to conservative conversation was the right way to go about this," "This conversation was borne out of the concern that Empey is holding out."
Another source stated : "This is the most active thing George W Bush has done in his post-presidency period. He has been incredibly restrained and diplomatic since leaving the White House. He has maintained radio silence."
The Guardian reported that that the US economic envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, persuaded Bush to intervene.
A Tory source said: "George Bush did have a conversation with David Cameron. It was a positive conversation. David underlined his commitment to the agreement and said we are doing all we can to support it. But he said that we cannot force Sir Reg to vote for it. George Bush thanked David and said, 'I can see you are engaged.'"
There are fears that the Tory/Unionist pact will bring an end to the even handed approach of Labor governments to Northern Ireland where neither side was favored.