Tony Blair should become the first British Prime Minister in 80 years to stand up to Unionists over the Northern Ireland peace process, British anti-Iraq war MP George Galloway has insisted.
He was speaking during a panel discussion at the West Belfast Festival which also involved the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson, Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald and Eamon Dunphy.
Glasgow Kelvin MP Galloway, who was suspended from the party last year over his opposition to the war in Iraq, said there was little patience in Britain with the approach of unionists in the peace process.
DUP member Donaldson insisted unionists wanted to see a conclusive end to decommissioning and the removal of the IRA’s capacity to return to violence.
Members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland accompanied Mr Donaldson to the hall after the Lagan Valley MP was advised not to attend.
Meanwhile broadcaster Eamonn Dunphy said Sinn Féin’s leadership has shown courage, clear thought and magnificence in its pursuit of an accommodation between unionists and nationalists.
During the panel discussion, Mr Dunphy said: “I do not believe the IRA will go back to terrorism.
“I am opposed to terrorism, whether it was the IRA’s terrorism or Tony Blair’s terrorism or George Bush’s terrorism.
“I was against physical force republicanism but I’ve changed my mind about republicans as I have watched the situation evolve. The leadership of Sinn Féin has been brave, clear, astute and magnificent in the pursuit of an accommodation between two different traditions.”
Mr Dunphy also paid tribute to fellow panellist Jeffrey Donaldson who attended the debate despite being advised he might be at risk.
Mr Dunphy said: “I welcome that Jeffrey Donaldson is here. I think it is a courageous thing for him to do.”
As Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and other key figures in his party watched from the back of the hall, Mr Dunphy said he believed the current generation of Irish republicans was carving out “a magnificent place in the history books”.