Belfast Telegraph

Former Ulster supremo tells a compelling tale

Peter Hain, Elmwood Hall

By Michael Conaghan

A wet Sunday and change of timing at short notice probably accounted for the sparse attendance at this talk featuring Peter Hain, the former Northern Ireland Secretary of State, but nevertheless he has a compelling story to tell.

Introduced and occasionally gently skewered by law lecturer Professor Brice Dickson, Mr Hain began by talking about his family experiences under South Africa's apartheid system.

Adept at getting into trouble, Hain was accused of scandalising the court in Northern Ireland after describing a judge as “off his rocker” in his autobiography.

He is still clearly aggrieved by his recent run-in with the judiciary and was most insistent that his time in Northern Ireland remained his highest achievement in politics, even as he claimed, somewhat flippantly, that using the introduction of water charges was a way of bringing local politicians together.

In a lively Q&A with the audience, he said he joined the Labour Party “because you can't remain a young liberal forever”, and was realistically optimistic about South Africa's current difficulties.

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