Hain proposes breach of agreement…

THE BBC and Sunday Times report that the November 24 deadline – not unexpectedly – is to be fudged. The ST reports: “They [the British and Irish governments] are considering a plan to allow Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland secretary, to choose the ministers. This would require Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists to agree by letter to accept the nominations at some future date, if their conditions are met”, while Mark Devenport reported Hain on Inside Politics “didn’t appear to rule out ways around the 24 November problem, such as the DUP and Sinn Fein confirming by letter who would fill the top jobs if their various other concerns are met.” What a wonderfully convenient cover Mr Hain may be providing, but if true, Hain is also diminishing his own authority, since he will have shown the Nov 24 ‘deadline’ to be a movable feast (but he won’t care, as he expects to be Deputy PM and well away from here in the near future). What he is proposing also appears to be in breach of the St Andrews Agreement, which states that parties’ nominating officers “shall make a nomination to the Assembly Presiding Officer” on Nov 24 after having confirmed acceptance of the deal, not via letter to the Secretary of State without backing the SAA.