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.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty