Tony Blair's former chief-of-staff hopes history will be kinder to former Prime Minister

Jonathan Powell said Blair's positive legacy in Northern Ireland was overshadowed by Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair’s former chief-of-staff has said to MPs he hopes history will treat Blair kindly and that events in Iraq and Afghanistan do not overshadow the former Prime Minister's work in Northern Ireland.

Jonathan Powell, a British diplomat who was the only senior advisor to last the entirety of Mr Blair’s leadership, said it was a shame the former Labour PM’s efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland were largely forgotten when discussing his legacy.

Citing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as obscuring Mr Blair’s record on the Irish peace process, Mr Powell said: “I hope that history will be kinder to him than current events.”

In June of this year, Mr Blair defended his record, claiming there would still be a “major problem” in Iraq even without toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Critics rejected the comments at the time as “bizarre”, accusing the former PM of “washing his hands of responsibility”.

Mr Powell defended Mr Blair during evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s inquiry into a scheme established by the Labour government to tackle on-the-run-republicans.

Speaking to MPs, Mr Powell was asked to reflect on the public public perception of Mr Blair in the context of Northern Ireland.

"In my experience very few people talk about Tony Blair and Northern Ireland, I think it's a shame actually that they forget the effort that he and Bertie Ahern made to bring about peace in Northern Ireland over ten years," he said.

"People largely remember Iraq or Afghanistan, whatever it might be, and I think he actually deserves a huge amount of credit for what he did and the amount of time he devoted to it and I hope that history will be kinder to him than current events."

Mr Blair and Irish premier Bertie Ahern were in power when the landmark Good Friday peace agreement was signed in 1998.

Committee member and former Labour minister Kate Hoey told Mr Powell that Mr Blair was being "difficult" over whether he would himself give evidence to the inquiry.

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