Northern Ireland

'Shocking dereliction of duty' over NI - Peter Hain

Lord Hain
Image caption Lord Hain was Northern Ireland secretary from 2005 to 2007

There has been a "shocking dereliction of responsibility" by the British and Irish governments in Northern Ireland, Lord Peter Hain has said.

The former secretary of state says he believes direct rule will return to NI and that would be an "absolute tragedy" at a "very dangerous time".

He said NI "deserves better than this".

Talks between the two main parties - the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin - to restore devolution at Stormont have been unsuccessful.

Speaking on the Sunday Politics programme, Lord Hain said there was "nobody at the helm" and there was a "sense of drift".

'Making noises'

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since January, when the coalition led by the DUP and Sinn Féin collapsed over a green energy scandal.

The negotiations involve the five main Northern Ireland parties and the UK and Irish governments, although a deal is dependent on whether the DUP and Sinn Féin can resolve their differences.

The main sticking points are an Irish language act, same-sex marriage and measures to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Several deadlines had been and gone but last week it was announced that the talks had failed.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Talks at Stormont have stalled

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said the issues dividing the parties "cannot be resolved quickly enough to enable an executive to be formed" soon.

He added that the government would "not forget our responsibilities to uphold political stability and good governance".

Lord Hain accused Mr Brokenshire of "making noises for months" about how a deal could be done, when last week nobody believed it was possible.

He said he and his successor as secretary of state, Paul Murphy, had been calling for a high-level summit involving the Irish and UK prime ministers for months.

"I don't believe that the whole problem in Northern Ireland has been properly gripped either by London or Dublin for years and especially the past year," he said.

He believes direct rule, whereby the UK Parliament would govern Northern Ireland instead of Stormont, will be introduced.

"I don't see where else we are going," he said. "I thought I was the last direct rule secretary of state in 2007 when we got self-government up and running, and that has been successful more or less," he added.

"It would be an absolute tragedy at a terribly dangerous time for Northern Ireland with Brexit having enormous consequences."

Watch the full Sunday Politics interview with Peter Hain on iPlayer.

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