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Why I could not support Blair protest

If I were 40 or 50 years younger, I too would be outside the Eason bookshop in Dublin protesting against Tony Blair and throwing eggs at him.

Well, maybe not throwing eggs; if I had an egg when I was young I would put it in the frying pan.
But it tells me a lot about myself and about how some people can change a lot as they grow older.
My heart might be with some of the protesters in Dublin’s O’Connell Street last Saturday but my head certainly was not.
As a matter of fact, I was somewhat embarrassed as pictures of angry crowds shouting anti-Blair slogans were flashed all over the world. The fact that a far bigger crowd was queuing up outside Eason’s to buy Tony Blair’s book and get his autograph made no difference. Angry people always make far better news stories than do the quiet ones do.
Now, if they were protesting against a visit from Margaret Thatcher or from George W Bush, my heart and my head would be with them. Those are people I could really regard as warmongers with the blood of countless innocent people on their hands.
I could associate Thatcher and Bush with tyrants like Franco and Pinochet, if not with Hitler or Stalin. But I could never think of Tony Blair in the same breath.
Certainly, Blair was wrong in supporting the invasion of Iraq but I could understand some of his arguments in favour of the invasion. The invasion got rid of Saddam Hussein, a real tyrant who certainly had the blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands.
However, I am unable to say whether Iraq is a better place today than it was under Saddam. Some of those who are in a position to know say it is; others who know say it is not. Who am I to know?
One of the main reasons for the invasion was to defeat terrorism. It certainly did not do that. Actually, the world became less safe after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the West is far more hated today than it was before. 
I cannot understand Blair’s continued support for the invasion. It seems to me to be out of character with the man. But he appears to be clear in his mind still that the invasion was the proper thing to do.
However, the real reason why I could not support those protesters against his visit to Ireland is because I believe the former prime minister should be welcomed here.
Of course I am talking here about the peace process. Unlike many of his predecessors, Tony Blair likes Ireland and the people of Ireland and he went out on a limb to bring the peace process forward.
In my mind, he will always be associated with the efforts to bring peace, justice and an end to the years of bloodshed and suffering in the North.
I will always associate him with Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Bill Clinton in bringing peace to Ireland. I am not, of course, forgetting the important roles played by John Hume, John Major, Charlie Haughey, Albert Reynolds, Fr Alex Reid and others in the process. (Forgive me if I do not include people such as David Trimble or Ian Paisley in that illustrious line-up. They had vital roles to play too but had no other choice but to go along with it when they could not stop it).
Thirty years of shooting and killing left some 3,000 people dead. How many more would have died if the fighting had continued for 40 or 50 years?
There are a lot of people walking around the streets of Belfast, Derry, Dublin and elsewhere today who would be in their graves now but for the efforts of Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern and the others. Let us not forget that. They brought peace to this country. Let us keep it in mind when we criticise Bertie Ahern over his handling of the economy. But that’s another story.
It was an honourable peace and not the kind of surrender that Thatcher would have insisted on.
It is a peace with justice where all Irish men and women, irrespective of creed, north or south of the border, have the same opportunities.
That’s why I could not support any protest against Tony Blair.

 

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