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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 October 2006, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Roadmap to devolution?
On Sunday 15 October, Huw Edwards interviewed Peter Hain MP, Northern Ireland Secretary.

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Peter Hain MP
Peter Hain MP, Northern Ireland Secretary

HUW EDWARDS: ... good morning Mr Hain.

PETER HAIN: Morning Huw.

HUW EDWARDS: Nice to see you.

PETER HAIN: Good to see you.

HUW EDWARDS: You must have been disappointed that after all the hard work you weren't able to announce on Friday that you had a final settlement.

PETER HAIN: I don't really recognise that description if I may say so. We got at St Andrews the St Andrews agreement. All the parties subscribed to its broad content. There's still some loose ends to tie up as there were after the Good Friday Agreement.

Indeed speaking to a senior official hours after he said, who'd been at the Good Friday Agreement eight years ago, he said this was probably even more significant. Because Ian Paisley's DUP was then outside the tent. Now it's right inside. But there's still some important issues to settle. But the, the agreement is an agreement.

HUW EDWARDS: But are you saying that you got as far as you wanted to get on Friday?

PETER HAIN: We got further than we expected. And that anybody observing it, including all the journalists there and the parties expected, because I think there was a realisation that this was make up your mind time.

Either Stormont was going to be closed down after November the twenty fourth and the deadline. And it still could be by the way if the parties unravel it or draw back from ...

HUW EDWARDS: That deadline's still there then?

PETER HAIN: Oh that, that deadline is still there. And if there isn't the necessary response from the parties by the tenth of November for legislation I have to take through the Commons then we will close it down.

And it was that realisation that I think brought a reality check to all the parties to say we really need to do what we ought to do which is to agree to govern Northern Ireland ourselves, locally elected politicians rather than myself as a direct rule Secretary of State.

HUW EDWARDS: To what extent did you sympathise with Mr Paisley's concerns about Sinn Fein's attitude to policing?

PETER HAIN: Absolutely and totally. I agree with Ian Paisley that it's absolutely essential and there's no iffing and butting about this. That Sinn Fein ought to sign up to policing and the rule of law. And they have to be fair in endorsing the broad thrust and content of this St Andrews Agreement ..

HUW EDWARDS: What if they don't? What if they don't?

PETER HAIN: Agreed to that principle.

HUW EDWARDS: What if they don't?

PETER HAIN: Well if they don't then the whole thing will fall and unravel and Stormont will be shut down. They have an obligation to fulfil as set out in the St Andrews agreement and they subscribed to it.

And to be fair to Gerry Adams, their president and Martin McGuiness, his deputy, they have both made important statements in recent weeks saying that yes they're up for doing this.

HUW EDWARDS: But I mean what is your hunch? Are they going to do that before the deadline?

PETER HAIN: My hunch is that the parties will agree because there's nowhere else for them to go. That's what they decided in Scotland. And they'll tell me by the tenth of November whether they can subscribe to the legislation I need to take through the House of Commons to prevent the dissolution of the assembly and sending them back home. And I think that they will do. So it's ... I think this was genuinely historic and in a way it came in and out of the media rather quickly which is why I'm, it's good to be discussing it now.

HUW EDWARDS: Well I'm just interested in the process itself with, with Sinn Fein and policing specifically because the issue's been around for a long time. The discussion's been happening for months and yet they weren't able to resolve it by this summit. So what makes you think that they'll resolve it in the next few weeks?

PETER HAIN: Well there were fundamental principles in the St Andrews agreement, subscribed to by the parties. A commitment to the rule of law, commitment to cooperation with the police, with the courts, all the necessary conditions for a democratic self government in place.

Nobody decentred from those. There is an issue now that Sinn Fein and its leadership have made absolutely clear that they need to consult their members and they're going to proceed to do that. But this matter will not go away.

It is the fundamental umbilical cord in the St Andrews agreement is a commitment by all parties to sign up to policing and the rule of law on the one hand and on the other a commitment by all parties to share power together. Those are the two things that stand or fall together and we've got that in place though we still have to negotiate the fine detail.

HUW EDWARDS: So let's be absolutely clear, once that policing box is ticked to use that horrible phrase, will that be enough then for Mr Paisley also to, to lock in fully?

PETER HAIN: Well it'll be necessary for that to happen before the nomination of Ian Paisley's first minister on the twenty fourth of November, just a month or so away. And Martin McGuiness from Sinn Fein as his deputy. That will happen on Friday the twenty fourth provided these matters have been resolved in their detail.

Now that is an historic prospect and will be an historic achievement and then there needs to be a period of consultation with the people either by a referendum or an election before restoration and a fully functioning executive and assembly is set up in March will all the p..., power, parties governing Northern Ireland together.

HUW EDWARDS: Given the body language that you witnessed in these talks are we getting closer to the moment when Ian Paisley will shake hands with Gerry Adams? Are we getting to that point?

PETER HAIN: Well I know there are all sorts of symbols of these things.

HUW EDWARDS: It's a big symbol.

PETER HAIN: Of course it's a big symbol. But I think Ian Paisley, quite rightly, is saying I want to see delivery. I want to see how the commitment to policing and the rule of law actually takes place.

And that'll have to happen quite soon because we'll need that clearly put in place when we establish the nomination of the first minister, the deputy first minister Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness on November the twenty fourth.

HUW EDWARDS: Now while you've been locked in these talks you, you'll be fully aware that there's been a big story about religious symbols in this country, veils and crosses and all the rest of it.

What is your view on that? From British Airways for example. What is your view on their, their order to this woman to, not to wear a cross?

PETER HAIN: Frankly I think British Airways' order for her not to wear a cross was loopy. I don't understand it. I don't think anybody understand its, understands it and that's my view.

HUW EDWARDS: And the veil, the full veil? Jack Straw's view on that?

PETER HAIN: Well ..

HUW EDWARDS: What's your, what's your take?

PETER HAIN: Well I un..., I think that Jack was quite right to raise this issues and my colleague Phil Willis has followed that up over night today. I think it's important that we debate these issues.

But I think it's very important that we do it in a atmosphere of tolerance for each other's faiths, each other's cultural traditions and what we wear. And that we on the one hand give women the right to choose but on the other hand to do so in a way that's not intrusive or offensive to people or just stops communication whether they're in a classroom or in a surgery.

HUW EDWARDS: Before you go I do want to ask you about you and your campaign for the deputy leadership. Other people no doubt will join the race Peter but are you happy at the moment with the thought that you might be in campaign mode, unofficially for six or eight months before this thing is resolved?

PETER HAIN: You know I'm not actually thinking about campaigns. What I'm thinking about and working on is tying up the final loose ends of the Northern Ireland political settlement. And I, I know you're looking at me sceptically Huw, but that's my job, and I'm engaged on that ..

HUW EDWARDS: I understand that.

PETER HAIN: .. pretty well twenty four hours a day ...

HUW EDWARDS: I can't believe you're not giving some thought at least to ..

PETER HAIN: Well yes and others have, others have also declared, government colleagues. But what matters now is to get the settlement in Northern Ireland and then the question of the deputy leadership will settle itself.

And I've said I'll be a candidate because I want to see the party renewed. But I'm focused on the day job. It's pretty intensive at the moment. It was virtually twenty four hours a day in Scotland.

HUW EDWARDS: Ideally would you not like the deputy leadership thing to be settled more quickly than the leadership issue just to get one out of the way for the party, in terms of campaigning?

PETER HAIN: This is a matter for the National Executive, a matter for the Prime Minister. I've, don't have any comment on any of the timing things.

The timing deadlines I've got in mind are to get the restoration of self government up in Northern Ireland, in March. I think we're well on the prospect to doing that. The St Andrews Agreement was an historic breakthrough but we've got to negotiate the final detail.

HUW EDWARDS: And when you do get the chance to make your official pitch to the party, to party members on the deputy leadership, in, in a few sentences, what will that pitch be?

PETER HAIN: I think the party should renew, the government should renew and establish a much better partnership between the government and the grass roots, not just of the party but of Britain. That's what we have to do.

HUW EDWARDS: Peter Hain good to talk to you.

INTERVIEW ENDS


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy


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