UTV special: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair in exclusive interview with Eamonn Mallie

Eamonn Mallie sits down in a UTV exclusive interview with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair

Popular UTV series ‘Eamonn Mallie Face to Face with’……makes a return to UTV with the veteran journalist and writer sitting down with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair for an exclusive hour-long interview, to be aired on Wednesday 9pm on UTV.

Coinciding with the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, this wide- ranging interview covers his memories of that crucial time in Northern Ireland’s history, and reflects on his involvement in the events leading up to the agreement, as well as giving insights into the personalities involved.

He also shares fond memories of childhood family holidays spent in Donegal, and he recounts how, on her deathbed, his staunchly Presbyterian grandmother has a message for him, “Whatever else you do son, don’t marry a Catholic… And I did….I didn’t actually have the heart to tell her at the time that I was going out with one.”

He explains to Eamonn his "passion" for solving the Northern Ireland problem right from the early days of his becoming Prime Minister, and shares details on several key points in the process - including his relationship with Bill Clinton and the "important role" he played in speaking one on one with David Trimble and Gerry Adams.

He recalls that David Trimble “was convinced there would be proper peace”, and how a ‘straightforward’ Martin McGuinness desired “that the next generation of people should have something different.”

He says, “I think it was on a knife edge right up until the very last moment.”

When Eamonn asks him if he feels the Good Friday Agreement can work he says, “It has worked in a way, mostly, but it’s not working as it should at the moment.” He states later “I still think the peace will hold. And I think that people on the island of Ireland are determined not to go back to the past.”

He and Eamonn also discuss Brexit and the Protocol issue, where he suggests, “If both sides are flexible and you take the ideology out of it… if you approach this in a practical way, you can find a solution.”

He concludes the interview by saying, “We could never have made peace in Northern Ireland if we hadn’t had people prepared to put the politics to one side and concentrate on what was right.”

Eamonn said, “Twenty-five years ago I was part of the press corps witnessing every twist and turn of the peace process in the run up to the agreement.

"During that period I jousted several times with Tony Blair. Exchanges were always lively and challenging.

"All these years later when I sat down with him in his London Headquarters to look back, and forward on political developments in Northern Ireland, I found him straight-talking on the making of the Good Friday Agreement and on the lessons to be learned for today’s politicians faced with lesser political problems.

"Like Tony Blair, we have all had time to reflect in a non-violent community on the political miracle that was the Good Friday Agreement. Back then our politicians found a way forward with Tony Blair in the lead. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement proved that the most intractable political problem can be overcome - in the words of Mr. Blair - 'when politicians put people before politics.'" 

Tony Curry, Programmes Editor at UTV said, “This is a ’must watch’ for those viewers who remember darker days in Northern Ireland and how the Good Friday Agreement was a springboard for peace.

And for younger viewers it’s a perfect opportunity to hear from one of the history makers himself how he and the leaders of that time all worked together to bring about peace in Northern Ireland.”

This episode of ‘Eamonn Mallie Face to Face with…..’ airs on Wednesday 25th January at 9pm on UTV.

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