“fig leaf to camouflage the almost irreconcilable elements at work”

Not only has the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill been passed without amendment through the House of Lords but, within 30 minutes of that happening, it also received Royal Assent.. just as well it wasn’t contentious then..As the BBC report notes

Lord Trimble, former Ulster Unionist leader, said there was an agreement between Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, but no-one else.

“The government is proceeding on optimistic assumptions which are not likely to be fulfilled,” he cautioned.

For the Liberal Democrats, Lord Smith of Clifton called the Bill a “fig leaf to camouflage the almost irreconcilable elements at work”.

He added: “Whether it will provide a foundation for operating a representative and democratic system of devolved government as all people of goodwill would wish is extremely doubtful.”

Lord Glentoran, for the Conservatives, said there had to be “delivery” from Sinn Fein, “no more ambiguity, no more conditions, no more promises of action that don’t happen”.

Northern Ireland Minister Lord Rooker called for a period of prolonged stability to help the devolution process and insisted problems could be overcome if “everyone delivers on their commitments”.

Former Conservative Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit said: “This Bill is another stage in the relentless march of Sinn Fein-IRA into power in Northern Ireland – power which has been won by bombs and bullets because it couldn’t be won by the ballot box alone.”

Not that our very own Secretary of State’s other difficulties will come into play at any point..