At a weekend festival in County Cork to commemorate the famine, which claimed one million lives, a letter was read out from the Prime Minister in which he blamed "those who governed in London" at the time for the disaster. The statement was read to an audience of 15,000 at a concert by the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne. In it, Mr Blair said he was pleased to join in remembering those who had died and suffered during "the great Irish famine".
He went on: "The famine was a defining event in the history of Ireland and Britain. It has left deep scars. That one million people should have died in what was then part of the richest and most powerful nation in the world is something that still causes pain as we reflect on it today. Those who governed in London at the time failed their people."
Mr Blair's words were welcomed by John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, who said: "While the statement confronts the past honestly, it does so in a way that heals for the future." Kathy Marks