Belfast Telegraph

Hain urges PM Theresa May to intervene in Northern Ireland talks process

Urgent summit needed to prevent direct rule, says Lord Hain

Prime Minister Theresa May and Enda Kenny must call an urgent summit to prevent direct rule's return in Northern Ireland, the former Secretary of State Peter Hain has said

Lord Hain - who once said he would be the last direct rule Northern Ireland Secretary of State - said should direct rule be implemented, "the precedent is ominous".

As talks resume at Stormont to resurrect power-sharing, involving both Secretary of State James Brokenshire and Irish Foreign Affairs minister Charlie Flanagan, Lord Hain has called on Theresa May to intervene.

"Northern Ireland always has to be on the Prime Minister's plate," he told the BBC.

"One of the issues that has bedevilled this process - since 2010 - is that it hasn't always been. Number 10 has often taken its eye off the ball.

"Of course she has a lot on her plate over Brexit, indeed Brexit is a complicating factor in terms of what happens with the border and the question of the right of Northern Ireland citizens to Irish citizenship, so there is a complication which doesn't help.

"So she needs to roll up her sleeves and call a summit which is urgently needed.

"What has happened in the past is that the parties have welcomed a summit convened jointly by the British and Irish governments in order for them to find ways to get an agreement that might not have happened face to face in Stormont.

"It worked in the past and could work again."

He added: "We have a situation where it has potential to be resolved. You have women at the top of Northern Ireland politics, very strikingly in Arlene Foster, Michelle O'Neill and Naomi Long.

"That's broken the mould. The question now is, can they strike a deal where their male predecessors were unable to do?

"Arlene foster has to show real leadership and magnanimity and equally Sinn Fein has to be open to compromise rather than having hard lines."

Should the parties not strike a deal in the next thee weeks and return an Executive, the Secretary of State must call an election or seek to implement emergency legislation for direct rule.

Lord Hain, writing in the Guardian, added: "If a combination of short-sighted London ministers and intransigent local politicians allows Northern Ireland to slip back into direct rule, the precedent is ominous.

"It took five years - from 2002 to 2007 - before we were able finally to devolve power. Who knows how long again if, as many are despairingly predicting, direct rule is repeated?"

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