Hain's 'Troops out of Northern Ireland' Days Return to Taunt Him

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 13, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Hain's 'Troops out of Northern Ireland' Days Return to Taunt Him


Byline: By Aled Blake Western Mail

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain's calls for British withdrawal from the province in the 1970s, were highlighted yesterday.

Neath MP Mr Hain, who is also Welsh Secretary, appealed for people in Northern Ireland to 'judge me on my record' after a BBC investigation showed how he expressed anti-Unionist views before Labour came to power.

Mr Hain said that Northern Ireland politics have been 'completely transformed' in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement and that his focus is on securing long-term peace.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was fully aware that he had expressed the controversial opinions, which Mr Hain did not renounce, when he made the appointment.

The BBC's Politics Show conducted a probe into his views on Northern Ireland going back to the 1970s. It said that he had expressed strong anti-unionist views and called for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, although he never supported the IRA.

In an interview on the show, Mr Hain said, 'It's been fascinating watching all those pictures of me with a lot more hair ... And we've all got things we've said, 20, 30 years ago, indeed the whole world has changed since then.

'We now have a political process, we've had a period of parties that have been fighting each other quite literally with bombs and bullets, talking to each other, and having sat together in the Assembly and sharing government with each other.'

He added that the political landscape had changed dramatically since he expressed the opinions in question.

'The whole of politics in Northern Ireland was frozen in the past and that has been the problem and until we got the Good Friday Agreement, which opened up a whole new world for Northern Ireland and indeed elsewhere, that has changed everything.

'My job now as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is to take this process forward and that I'm determined to do, whatever old clippings you dig out,' he added.

When asked how he could act as broker in Northern Ireland, he said he had worked effectively with Unionists. 'I've had very good meetings with Unionist leaders, Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley and his team, I've had good meetings with the Ulster Unionists and I continue to intend to have those,' he said.

'We're all working together to look forward beyond an IRA statement, if it is the credible one we're hoping for and expecting.

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