Eye of the storm

Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland

Jonathan Powell

Bodley Head, 338pp

Between 1994 and 2007, Jonathan Powell was Tony Blair's chief of staff and chief negotiator in Northern Ireland. His position at the very eye of the storm provides a unique vantage point from which to eavesdrop on the most private machinations of the peace process, all the way from new Labour's awkward "first contact" with Sinn Fein to Ian Paisley’s election as First Minister in May 2007.

Great Hatred, Little Room is suffixed by the joint blessings of Blair, Bill Clinton and Bertie Ahern. They credit Powell with being "midwife" to the end of violent political conflict in Northern Ireland.

Powell makes clear from the outset that this is no impartial account, nor "a comprehensive history of the conflict and its origins", and the resolutely individual perspective is emphasised throughout. What such an approach yields is a considerable wealth of detail, both personal and political, that sheds light on events otherwise clouded in the gunsmoke of history.

Though at times over-loyal to the Blairite agenda, Powell's account is anchored by a universal message: that peace is "not an event but a process", and that communication is crucial.