Peers in war of words over St Andrews deal

Lord Hain tweet
Lord Hain tweet

Two peers have publicly clashed over suggestions that the St Andrews Agreement is to blame for the current political deadlock at Stormont.

Former Labour secretary of state Lord Hain became embroiled in a war of words on Twitter with NI Office special advisor Lord Caine.

From left: Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and First Minister  Ian Paisley, in the First Minister's office at the Northern Ireland Assembly, Stormont today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 8, 2007.The Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were sworn in today as First and Deputy First Ministers following a deal struck between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein in March. See PA story POLITICS Ulster. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/Pool/PA Wire

From left: Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and First Minister Ian Paisley, in the First Minister's office at the Northern Ireland Assembly, Stormont today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 8, 2007.The Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were sworn in today as First and Deputy First Ministers following a deal struck between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein in March. See PA story POLITICS Ulster. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/Pool/PA Wire

Conservative peer Lord Caine – who has been heavily involved in a number of talks processes – claimed changes made to the 1998 Belfast Agreement at St Andrew’s in 2006 were the source of many of Stormont’s recent problems.

It comes after a number of high-ranking Brexiteers, including former secretary of state Owen Paterson, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan and Labour MP Kate Hoey suggested that the 1998 accord may have outlived its usefulness.

While these comments were slammed as “reckless” by some commentators, Lord Caine said changes to Northern Ireland’s system of government made at St Andrews had proven to be “far more damaging” than any critical remarks made regarding the Belfast Agreement.

In a tweet aimed at Labour peer Lord Hain, the Tory advisor said: “Can’t help reflecting Peter it was your changes to the 1998 GFA at St Andrews in 2006 and after that are actually the source of so many of the problems we face today.”

The deal at St Andrews in 2006 paved the way for the DUP and Sinn Fein to share power in 2007.

Rejecting the Lord Caine’s claims, former secretary of state Lord Hain said changes made at St Andrews were “minimal, agreed by all the parties and operated perfectly well for 10 years”.

He added: “DUP and SF dominance only happened in the last parliamentary elections. Until then SDLP and UUP were still there.”

Lord Hain also accused the Tories of having “casually thrown away” a decade of devolution that took place following the deal at St Andrews.

He said the 2006 deal had “unravelled disastrously” under the Tories and accused them of “rewriting history to explain away their complicity”.

In response, Lord Caine accused him of “attempting to score cheap political points”.

• In tomorrow’s News Letter, former UUP leader Sir Reg Empey gives his opinion on the impact of the St Andrews Agreement