Mayhew happy to let history be his judge

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Indy Politics
Declaring his time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland "the five best-spent years of my career", Sir Patrick Mayhew yesterday glossed over criticism of his handling of opportunities presented by the peace process.

Asked after his final Anglo-Irish Conference meeting with Irish ministers if he had been a failure, he said: "It is for other people and not for me to decide about those matters."

Sir Patrick recalled that he had asked to be put in the post and was "very glad" he had been given it. He added: "Now, nearly five years later I am just as glad that I was given the chance. Nobody takes on this kind of thing and expects to be able to pat himself on the back."

He hoped he had helped the people of Ireland as a whole to "come to terms with their ancient history, to cease to look back and to look forward".

Then Sir Patrick bade farewell just as questions began getting tougher on how his government had missed the chances presented by the 1994 ceasefires.

It had been a rocky Anglo-Irish marriage with Dublin negotiators frequently convinced that he felt the island was populated solely by Unionists. But that was all forgotten yesterday.

Before leaving, Irish ministers presented him with essays on Cork, where he had Protestant Ascendancy ancestors, a book of photos of Irish antiquities and a bottle of 40-year-old Midleton Very Rare whiskey.

The Dublin meeting dealt with Dublin's concerns over British handling of the North report on the marching season, security issues and the detention of Roisin McAliskey, suspected of IRA terrorist crimes.