Monday, March 17, 2008

Outstandingly interesting memoir

A moment in history: sitting down to talk with Adams and McGuinness | Politics | The Guardian

This is one of the best bits of memoir I have ever read, if not the best. For example:

A strong sense of the past hovered over the meeting. Before sitting down, McGuinness paused and observed: "So this is where all the damage was done."

We all froze, taken aback by this opening gambit, and I said: "Yes, the mortars landed in the garden behind you. The Gulf war cabinet on this side of the table, including my brother Charles, the prime minister's foreign affairs adviser, dived under the table, before retreating to the garden rooms below. The windows came in but no one was injured."

McGuinness looked hurt. "No, I meant this was where Michael Collins signed the treaty in 1921." We, with our shorter-term perspective, had been thinking of the IRA attack on Downing Street in 1991, while they, with their longer sense of historical grievance, had been thinking about the treaty of Irish independence signed with Lloyd George that had given rise to the Irish civil war.

Here's another teaser for you:

Ten years of work paid off on May 8 2007 when a grand ceremony was held at Stormont to mark the power sharing deal between Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley. Jonathan Powell and Tony Blair found themselves sitting close to an interesting collection of republicans:

I would have felt it to be an even more remarkable occasion had I realised the identity of the group of middle-aged men sitting in the next section along in the gallery. They looked harmless enough with their grey hair,

· Extracted from Great Hatred, Little Room by Jonathan Powell, to be published by The Bodley Head on March 20 at £20. To order a copy for £18 with free UK p&p go to [the Guardian online] bookshop or call 0870 836 0875


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