“It’s almost like a fruit ripening.” – Peter Hain

Following up on their exclusive open letter to unionism from the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, today’s yesterday’s News Letter has a lengthy interview with Peter Hain.. in which there are, at least, a couple of interesting comments – on the response to his MacGill speech “It provoked a predictable series of squawks from republicans saying ‘leave us alone, we’ll do it our way’.” [Not Gerry Adams’ “patronising republicans” comment surely? – Ed] – More below the fold.When questioned, he adds little to the detail on any possible Plan B..

News Letter: How much work has been done on Plan B? Can you categorically say that the Dublin administration will
not have an internal role in Northern Ireland?

Peter Hain: Work continues to go on, but from my point of view, as I said in my open letter, there will be no joint authority. That would be in flagrant breach of the Good Friday Agreement, voted for by the people of the whole island of Ireland. Nothing will be done which is one inch out of step with the Good Friday Agreement. But I think it makes sense, for example, to cooperate on energy policy, there is now a single electricity market. It makes sense to cooperate on the economy, to look at it as an island-of-Ireland economy, so we can maximise the opportunities for Northern Ireland, to take advantage of some of the success in the south. I think it is sensible to cooperate on sex offenders travelling across the border. Sensible to work for a situation where patients, whether they are north or south of the border, can get the best treatment at the local hospital, even if it’s in another jurisdiction. And all of those policies will be driven forward while I’m in charge, and we will do so through cross-border bodies and directly through Belfast and Dublin.

News Letter: But its one thing talking about cross-border cooperation and its another talking about “joint stewardship” and the potential for the Dublin administration having a role in the internal running of Northern Ireland.

Peter Hain: Well, let’s wait and see. I’m not planning for failure, I’m planning for success. I think Plan A is by far the best one for unionists as well.

Just a reminder at this point that Peter Hain has already talked about the “unhelpful spin” on joint-stewardship when giving evidence to the NI Affairs Committee in May

Mr Hain: I hope my friends and colleagues on the other side of the border will not take offence at this, “but I think there was some unhelpful spin from some elements in Dublin which hyped up the interpretation of “joint stewardship. Joint stewardship of the process” was a very carefully chosen phrase. It did not imply joint authority, as I said earlier, joint governance: it implied joint stewardship of the process of bringing peace, of putting in concrete the peace and seeking restoration of the devolved institutions. That is what it meant, and that is what it will mean, that and nothing else. I do agree that interpretation seems to have been the reason that, in the case of the UVF at least, they would not do anything until after 24 November. I think that is an excuse, frankly, and now that they know that that has been clarified by myself in particular, there is no reason for them to delay at all.

But as well as his defense of the comments on PIRA criminality Peter Hain also indicates how he imagines the issue of policing can be resolved… or not as the case may be..

In a reference to the quadruple lock on devolving policing powers he said

News Letter: But it is also about not making the mistake that has been made in the past. You have admitted the Government has been a bit too optimistic about republicans in the past. There must be an absolute end to crime and violence, so a deal sticks.

Peter Hain: Oh, I agree and I have acknowledged that with Ian Paisley when he has put that point to me privately and I do so now. The DUP deserves a lot of credit for insisting the violence and the criminality has to be stripped out of Northern Ireland politics and republicanism.

But I think with republican politics, having moved in response to that pressure, absolutely radically, there is then an issue, as I said in my letter, as to whether you grasp this opportunity. Do you say, we are better having everyone inside the tent where we can really influence them? Where Ian Paisley can say to Martin McGuinness in an Executive, I won’t agree to the devolution of policing and justice until you guys have signed up fully for cooperation for the police. You can better do that inside, when you are negotiating and bargaining on a future government programme, rather than just be screaming at each other.

That would be inside a tent where, of course, Martin McGuinness can say, we won’t sign up fully for cooperation for the police until you guys agree to the devolution of policing and justice…

A position which seems to invite further stalemate while failing to address the question posed by Denis Bradley

Perhaps the choice quote though, and I considered it for a quote of the day is this

“I have always sought to tell it straight.”

Hmmm… or as someone else put it, “We are being straight with the political parties and straight with the people”