“What we shall look for in the next few days is delivery, not promises”

NI Questions might have gone by in a flash, but there was at least one response by the Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain, that was worth noting. In a, perhaps, surprisingly concise answer [time constraints? – Ed] he took a strong line on two issues – looking for delivery, not promises, on policing and ruling out an issue that Sinn Féin attempted to resurrect in recent days – on-the-runs.The question and answer went like this

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Is the Secretary of State aware of how damaging it would be to the prospects for restoration if the Government were to return to the issue of on-the-run terrorists being given what amounts to an amnesty? Although we welcome the earlier answer from the Minister of State that no legislation is to be brought before the House, will the Secretary of State reassure the House and settle the nerves of my colleagues and me by assuring us that no other procedure will be used to allow on-the-run terrorists to return?

Mr. Hain: There is no other procedure. There is no prospect of an amnesty. The legislation was tried; it was withdrawn when support for it collapsed, not least in this House, and we have absolutely no intention of bringing legislation back. That, I think, should reassure the hon. Gentleman. What we shall look for in the next few days is delivery—not promises—from Sinn Fein on policing and respect for the rule of law, and then a commitment from all the parties to a power-sharing Executive.[added emphasis]

As well as the apparent sequencing envisaged by Peter Hain – which he hinted at in his Belfast Telegraph article – looking for delivery firstly on policing and then power-sharing, the line on OTRs echoes the comments by Dermot Ahern, speaking at the start of the week on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics[RealPlayer video] – approx 2.30min in – thanks to Ronan.

“To bring forward legislation, particularly in the UK, will tear parties and possibly, potentially, tear the agreement apart. And that’s one of the reasons why the governments have been very clear that the on-the-runs issue can’t be dealt with in the context of this agreement.”[added emphasis]