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Statement by Peter Hain on the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill, (21 November 2006)

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Text: Peter Hain ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh

Extracts from a Statement by Peter Hain, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, during the second reading of the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill, House of Commons, (21 November 2006)


"This legislation gives effect to the St Andrews Agreement with its twin pillars, of power-sharing on a fair and equitable basis and support for policing and the rule of law across the whole community. These twin pillars stand or fall together.

Since the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland has been in transition, from conflict to peace, from instability to stability, from economic stagnation to increasing prosperity, from a divided past into a shared future.

The time is now right to complete this transition, with the local parties delivering on a stable and lasting political settlement.

The time has come for action on restoring devolution, on ending the democratic deficit and closing down direct rule. The people of Northern Ireland have waited long enough for locally accountable democratic government.

I can understand why parties are edging forward with considerable caution. I know that there are issues on which all sides want reassurances and where the Government can give that reassurance, we will.

Where the parties must give that reassurance to each other, they should but there is nothing that cannot be resolved within the timeframe set out in the St Andrews Agreement – given the will to do it.

The future of devolution for Northern Ireland rests on the twin pillars of the St Andrews Agreement; if either one collapses the whole edifice collapses.

We must know that the parties want to move forward to March 26 on that basis.

That is why November 24 is important. When that deadline was set, I said that we needed to know by then that a deal was on and we were on track for a lasting political settlement.

That is still the case. Without knowing that, there cannot be a Transitional Assembly, an election nor devolution.

The sequence set out at St Andrews will not be set aside and no-one should think that this is some kind of a virility test to see who blinks first.

If the Assembly has to be dissolved because we cannot move forward then it will be but I sincerely hope it will not come to that."



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