The flat-footed Peter Hain used Boxing Day to make an attack on Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary David Lidington’s opposition to the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill. This Bill had been dubbed the ‘on-the-run’ bill because of its promise to provide unconditional amnesties to fugitive IRA and other terrorists.
The bill has now been scrapped after Sinn Fein withdrew its support from the controversial legislation. Today’s Sun called the bill "revolting" and continued: "The nation has turned a blind eye to the early release of convicted IRA terrorists. But welcoming Provo killers back to Ulster with blood still on their hands is a step too far."
Commenting on Peter Hain’s u-turn David Lidington said:
"We welcome the Government’s decision to withdraw the OTR legislation today. The Bill was misconceived, opposed by all political parties in Northern Ireland and all the opposition parties in the House of Commons. More important, it was deeply resented by victims groups and families of those who have suffered at the hands of terrorists. On this occasion, Peter Hain has done the right thing. On political talks, we share the Government’s objective of re-establishing the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. Before that can happen however, there will need to be a rebuilding of trust and confidence that has been so badly fractured in recent years mainly due to actions of the Sinn Féin/IRA. Republicans must end their involvement in all forms of criminal activity. Sinn Féin must give its full and unequivocal support to the police, the courts and the rule of law if they are to aspire to serve as ministers in a devolved government. Clearly, it will take more than one IMC report to demonstrate that republicans have turned their backs on criminality for good. We will need to be certain over a period of time that their commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means is permanent and irreversible."
We should all remember Tony Blair’s attempt to pass this appeasement process bill next time we hear one of his hand-of-history speeches on his opposition to terrorism.