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PM opens Belfast newspaper HQ

The Prime Minister officially opened the Belfast News Letter’s new offices in the city during his visit to the province for the restoration of devolution.

On probably his last official visit to Belfast before quitting as PM, he gave a speech which highlighted the importance of the newspaper to Northen Ireland and unionism.

And he also revealed that the News Letter was essential reading at Downing Street for its insight into what unionists were thinking.

While he was there, Tony Blair also gave an exclusive interview to political editor Stephen Dempster, revealing the times when he began to doubt if a peace deal would ever be cemented – as well as his joy at this week’s developments.

Also at the office opening ceremony were DUP leader and new First Minister Ian Paisley, Secretary of State Peter Hain and Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey, along with Johnston Press chairman Roger Parry and prominent industry figures.

The Prime Minister took a tour of the newsroom before unveiling a plaque to mark the beginning of a new era for the oldest continuously published newspaper in the English speaking world.

Two-hundred and seventy years since the paper was first printed in 1737, the News Letter has moved part of its editorial operation to the heart of the city to enable it to meet the demands of 21st-century news gathering.

Managing director Jean Long told the guests: “This is a newspaper which has unashamedly stood for fairness, for equality, for justice and law and order and has, I believe, played a key role in bringing about this great day.

“Just below the masthead it reads the Pride of Northern Ireland – that is in essence what the News Letter stands for.”