“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”

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  • Peking


    For a second I thought the title referred to the colour of Hain’s face.

  • TheVoiceOfTreason

    Smells like fruit rotting though !

  • Pete Baker

    Could we move onto the actual comments he has made?


  • slug


    Thanks 4 your as usual v good blogging.

    Isn’t there a problem with this ripening fruit analogy, and the admission that it was a mistake to hurry unionists, and that unionists were right to insist on a focus on crime, and the insistence that devolution is vastly better than any plan B.

    The problem is that if it really is the case that everything is ripening and the DUP are almost there, is it really credible to say that there is this deep freeze that sets in on Nov 24th after which nobody in the NIO or No 10 will have time to work on the problem.

    Governments and NI SoS’s are there to work on these problems, so they would be rather irresponsible to throw away a fruit that all sides (even the DUP) accept is on the way to ripening.

  • Pete Baker

    It’s not the best analogy, slug, certainly.. but then few analogies bear close inspection.

  • slug

    Pete its not just the analogy, its the credibility of saying (i) that its really important to get devolution, and we were wrong to hurry unionists in the past, and things are starting to get there and (ii) if Nov 24th passes then the Government will be too busy to work on restoring for a long long time.

    If (i) is true then (ii) isn’t credible.

  • Pete Baker

    Well, slug, the News Letter’s Stephen Dempster put that point to Peter Hain as the very last question in the interview… not sure that the answer illuminates much though.

  • Pete Baker

    Just spotted another contender for quote of the day.. Hain on the policing issue

    “I don’t think anybody can accuse me of ducking the issue.”

    Oh, I know of someone not a million miles away who could do, and has done, just that..

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Just for the record, this was in yesterday’s News Letter. Part 2 of the interview is in today’s paper, although it doesn’t appear to be online.

    Paisley rebuffed Hain’s argument in the News Letter today:

    IAN Paisley “bluntly” told Peter Hain yesterday that people are angry at continued Government claims that Sinn Fein/IRA are fit for office.

    He also repeated that the November 24 deadline “is not a deadline for the DUP”.
    After a meeting at Hillsborough Castle, the DUP leader said he put it “forcibly” to the Secretary of State that the unionist community was annoyed with claims that republicans were free of criminal and paramilitary trappings when “all the evidence is to the contrary”.
    Last week, Mr Hain and Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell told reporters that the IRA leadership were no longer involved in crime and terror and were
    “delivering 100 per cent” on promises to end all such activities.
    They said any criminality was that of individual IRA members for private gain and unsanctioned by leaders.
    This rosy picture was at odds with reality, said Mr Paisley, who added that:
    * “The Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee which includes MPs from the Labour Party listed several examples of ongoing IRA illegality, especially in relation to organised crime.”
    * “In recent days, we have seen a diesel washing operation which was capable of generating millions of pounds of
    income each year uncovered in Cullyhanna.”
    * “We have also heard how the sister of IRA informer Martin McGartland was told by police that her safety was under threat. This news broke immediately after the Secretary of State’s comments that he believed the IRA had ended all of its illegal activity.”
    * “Only yesterday, Sinn Fein forced a District Policing Partnership meeting in Dromore, Co Tyrone, to be cancelled after their concerted campaign in the local area.”
    Mr Paisley went on: “It is clear that Sinn Fein/IRA are still involved in terror and crime and do not deserve the clean bill of health the Secretary of State gave them.”
    He also raised the issue of community restorative justice schemes and the fears many people have over paramilitary involvement in them.
    “And I told him the focus should not be on unionists,” he said. “The DUP are democrats. The spotlight should remain firmly on those who have failed to reach the basic democratic standards required to hold public office.
    “The DUP has a mandate to settle for nothing short of republicans being committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
    “The November deadline is not a deadline for the DUP. It is for republicans to convince the community the IRA has ended its terrorist and criminal campaign.”

  • Pete Baker

    “Just for the record, this was in yesterday’s News Letter.”

    You are quite correct Gonzo.. I missed the dateline on the online version. My bad.

    Although Paisley seems to be responding to the statements last week, by Hain and McDowell, rather than the interview.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    What did you think of the second part of the interview?

  • Pete Baker

    I haven’t seen it yet, the print edition not being one of my regular reads.. I’ll blog it tomorrow when it’s online, if that’s ok ;o)