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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Tributes paid to Blair's NI work
By Brendan Anderson
BBC News website

tony blair

Politicians in Northern Ireland have been paying tribute to Tony Blair who has announced he is standing down as prime minister.

Mr Blair, who has visited Northern Ireland 37 times in the past ten years, said he would resign on 27 June.

First Minister Ian Paisley said Mr Blair had devoted more time to Northern Ireland than his predecessors.

He said, however, there were many issues on which he "did not see eye to eye" with the Prime Minister.

"Indeed, he kept me out of Downing Street for several years. Also unionists do not forget his failure to live up to promises in the early years," the DUP leader said.

"They believe he was too willing to offer concessions to republicans, which may have delayed the progress that has been achieved recently.

"There is no doubt, however, that the Prime Minister's concerted efforts helped in ultimately securing devolution in Northern Ireland."

'Crucial contribution'

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said Mr Blair had "made a significant and crucial contribution to the Irish peace process".

"The Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the political institutions would not have been possible without him," Mr Adams said.

"I want to extend best wishes to him, his wife Cherie and their family for the future.

"Sinn Fein want the next British prime minister to be the last with any jurisdiction in Ireland and we will work hard to ensure that this is achieved in the time ahead."

DUP leader Ian Paisley described Mr Adams' remarks as "flippant" and "scare-mongering".

"The next prime minister will not be the last with jurisdiction in Northern Ireland due to the gains made by the DUP," he said.

"Gerry Adams will not see a united Ireland in his lifetime and the DUP remain steadfast on this vital fact.

"His scaremongering is not welcome nor is the fantasy that our British prime minister will not have an integral role to play in Northern Ireland for many years to come."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Mr Blair left office "with an honoured place in our history assured".

"The Good Friday Agreement stands as a noble testament to his commitment to address the problem of Northern Ireland in a fair and balanced way," the Taoiseach said.

"Tony Blair leaves a priceless legacy of peace and agreement in Ireland. I am privileged to have worked side by side with him on the peace process... ."

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said there was no question that the Prime Minister was "deeply committed to Northern Ireland".

"Without that commitment, the Belfast Agreement, upon which our current institutions are based, would not have been reached," Sir Reg said.

"His tactics and approach, while questionable on occasion, have delivered what we all hope is a lasting and stable political solution."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said he did not believe the Good Friday Agreement would have existed without Mr Blair's contribution.

"He deserves immense credit for his perseverance in our process," he said.

"The amount of time and personal capital he invested, alongside the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, should never be underestimated."

Alastair Campbell on Tony Blair's NI Work

Blair a builder of Irish peace
10 May 07 |  Northern Ireland
End of a beautiful friendship
10 May 07 |  Northern Ireland

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