Hain: what the Agreement did for Unionists

In a recent speech, Peter Hain lays out what he believes the Belfast Agreement did to address Unionist greivances:

What has unionism got from the Agreement? I don’t regard that as a rhetorical question: there is an answer. For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic has dropped its constitutional claim over the territory of Northern Ireland.

For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein has accepted that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom until and unless the people of Northern Ireland decide otherwise.

For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, the IRA have accepted that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom until and unless the people of Northern Ireland decide otherwise.

For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, the principle of consent is enshrined in an international agreement. Now anyone who knows the history of Northern Ireland and of unionism must appreciate the great significance of this.

To those who say that the principle of consent should always have been there, we always have to deal with what is and not what should be: you can’t rewrite history but you can make it.

In short, it seems to me that the two fundamental demands of unionism throughout 30 years of the troubles have been met: peace – the end of the terrorist campaign – and the securing of the union.