In praise of… Peter Hain

Frank Millar has a useful end of week wash up on the lead up to this deal. It’s easy to forget that when the so-called “comprehensive agreement” collapsed, just before the Northern Bank robbery, there was little sign of any momentum. For all the moral (and legal) compromises in getting to where we now are, Hain may have played a crucial role in bringing at least one aspect of the Irish question to a close:

…it would be disingenuous for anyone in the Northern Ireland Office to claim that Hain and Blair have always sung from the same hymn sheet. However, there is acceptance at the highest levels in Whitehall that Hain’s conduct of the policy debate – coupled with what one source describes as “his impatience with the impasse” – served an important function in a process that had grown “too indulgent”. And, in terms of the end result, was there any significant difference between Hain’s stance and Blair’s more emollient message to the DUP on the need to directly engage with, and persuade, Sinn Féin? At the last, in any event, Hain was able to laugh with everyone else.