And the real hero of the hour is….

Put your coffee down if you are reading this in the NIO… It’s Peter Hain… According to Pavel Molchanov the strategy was simple, but relentless:

He sought to make direct rule from London as unpalatable as possible for Northern Ireland’s politicians, particularly the DUP and Sinn Fein. For example, he threatened the introduction of controversial water bills and unpopular reform of the province’s school system if no power-sharing deal was reached. Towards the end of the process – the March 26 deadline was part of the ultimatum he created – he went after the perks of the politicians themselves, vowing to cut off salaries and allowances in the absence of a comprehensive agreement. The final threat was the most severe: Hain announced that devolution would be indefinitely suspended unless a deal was in place.

Hain’s deliberately hardball tactics were reminiscent of the famous words from the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, when the Allies demanded the surrender of Japan: “Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.” Hain made it clear that there was no flexibility to his demands. He dared the parties to call his bluff.

They didn’t. On March 26, Sinn Fein and the DUP announced their agreement.

However, when the history of this period comes to be written, there is one aspect of Pavel’s account that might just be questioned by some of the players: the idea that the Bush administration had no part to play in all of this.

That’s certainly not what Mitchell Reiss (or the DUP) would say.

  • I thought Peter Hain’s strategy was quite tranparent.

    He was Blair’s hardball guy-he was there to pressurise the NI parties into completing the deal so that Blair could leave office with the good bit of his legacy intact to counterblance the bad bit-Iraq.

  • If I was a media-studies teacher in norn iron, I’d set my students a project in celebration of Peter Hain. The prize going to the most interesting video/song/comic.

    Personally I’d have a go at coming up with a Belfast rap song under the pseudonym:
    DJ MC The Right Reverend Peter Hain-Hain.

    Any media teachers visit Sluggers?
    There must be an album/You tube in there somewhere.
    No Hain no Gain
    No Gain without Hain, or without Pain ( for some )

  • Aquifer

    He knew the GFA gave him good authority to drive the parties to an agreement. He talked directly to them. offered them grown-up choices, and then promised to take the rattle and pram off them.

    And now we have walking talking politicians.

    And didn’t he make his predecessors look soapy?

  • Different folks for different strokes. The real business was done at Leeds Castle. And that was on Murphy’s watch.

  • merrie

    > He sought to make direct rule from London as unpalatable as possible for Northern Ireland’s politicians, particularly the DUP and Sinn Fein

    For years SF has been finding direct rule from London unpalatable. Hain had no influence there. SF wanted Brits out and Plan B could also be in its favour.

    It was the DUP who had the problem about unpalatability. All the options tasted foul, and ruling NI jointly with SF was the only option which could save NI – temporarily.

  • phil

    Merrie- do not think the union is safe with the new deal?

    I can see the danger to the union from plan “B”, has not IP saved the UK?

  • merrie

    IP has temporarily saved the UK by getting the local Assembly going, but there are other factors (for example population change) which will likely cause the reunion of NI with the other 26 counties in the next decade or so.

  • For me it’s obvious that it worked.

    It ensured the overwhelming majority of Unionists accepted a cross community settlement to the governance of Northern Ireland because the other alternatives to devolution were horrific.

    History will probably treat Hain very well but other Secretaries of State were definately better such as (in order of importance) Willy Whitelaw, Peter Brooke and Mo Mowlam.

  • phil

    Merrie “next decade”?

    I am sure that at least 25% of nationalists when asked state that they wish to remain within the Uk.

    I accept that the demographics makes the old discriminatory Norn Iron obsolete, however re-unification is quite another matter.

  • phil


    I think you’re right.

    IP showed leadership as Joint authority loomed.

    Should this settlement fail then Plan “B” would be back on the table at some point.

  • willis

    What has been quite magnificent is the way PeterHain has overcome his natural shyness, diffidence and modesty to do what had to be done.

  • Greenflag

    Peter Hain -next British Labour Prime Minister -after Gordon Brown . If this ‘Assemby’ lasts one term he’ll deserve it !

  • Greenflag

    Pavel Molchanov’s article points to the obvious with regard to Peter Hain’s successful strategy but his Olmert/Abbas -NI/Israel/Palestine analogy goes a bridge too far .

    SF/IRA / Irish Republicans throughout history have never denied the right of the British nation to exist . They have opposed the political control of Ireland/Northern Ireland by Britain . This opposition has been expressed peacefully and by violent means on and off over the past 200 years . This opposition will no doubt continue . All that’s different is that Northern Ireland’s Republicans have accepted that such opposition will be now expressed peacefully through the ballot box.

    And that’s about as good as it can get for now.

  • phil


    Now with the security/policing issue off the table the national question can be squarely addressed by SF within Norn Iron and without by the Irish govt.
    The positive thing is that no one has to get hurt in that process.
    The Provos’ campaign-ironically-kept the national question off the table becuase it could not be discussed as this would be “rewarding terrorism” as Commander data would have it :0)

  • Hain, like the New Leftist he is, chose to squeeze the DUP in order to reach a deal because he was unwilling/unable to squeeze the Shinners in the same way. All the pressure was brought to bear on the DUP, including the promise that he would make state education as bad in Northern Ireland as it is in England if they didn’t play ball with him.

    An explicable but odious strategy, I suppose, although it says something unflattering about the man, which would fall foul of Slugger’s golden rule.

  • phil


    Didnt Ian P say on a radion interview that he had been left with “ choice” but to do the deal?

    Whatever Hain did he was certainly acting on Tony B’s bidding to secure the legacy….