...I never thought I'd write that.
I suppose that we all have an idealised memory of our childhood. A sort of amalgam of different memories which make up a vision of what it was like. I picture growing up over 15 years with Top of the Pops permanently presented by Alan Freeman, Jimmy Savile, Pete Murray and Tony Blackburn on a rota basis. Of course, they only did it like that for about a year.
In this funny memory cache I also have the news permanently presented by Robert Dougall. It involves pictures of Harold Wilson walking backwards and forwards out of Number Ten with his pipe and gannex, and pictures of Ted Heath heaving his shoulders with laughter. The news always seemed to feature the latest dire news on the monthly balance of payments, with accompanying graphics, as if the country was about to go into receivership. We never seem to hear about the balance of payments nowadays, although, the last time I checked, we were permanently in deficit but bailed out by something called "invisibles".
This memory capsule invariably features the news read by Robert Dougall starting with the words "In Northern Ireland today...." followed by news of some awful killings in the province. In fact, those old newsreaders, Robert Dougall, Richard Baker, Kenneth Kendall and Peter Woods (on the Beeb) not to forget Ivor Mills, Andrew Gardner and Reginald Bosanquet on ITN, must have said "In Northern Ireland today" more than any other phrase.
The troubles went on for so long, and were such a permanent and tragic backcloth to life, that it now seems like a bizarre dream to see Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness giggling together at Stormont. After so many failed attempts and so many Northern Ireland secretaries (remember Robert Carr? I even remember Terence O'Neill and Brian Faulkner, who were, I think, the last two "Prime Ministers" of Northern Ireland - goodness I am ancient) it just seems unreal that we have got to a state of reasonable peace and devolved rule in Northern Ireland.
So, for all this, I say well done Tony Blair. No doubt I will later find ways to take credit away from him for this and it is certainly drowned out by his Iraq debacle, for which he deserves to be tried for War Crimes, but for the moment I pat him on the back for this extraordinary achievement. However, the real people who deserve the credit are the people of Northern Ireland.