Former Northern Ireland secretary warns peace process is 'unravelling'

A former Northern Ireland secretary has warned about the peace process "unravelling" as efforts continue to break the deadlock in restoring powersharing.

Labour's Lord Hain said ministers had repeatedly told the House of Lords that an agreement was about to be achieved between Northern Ireland's main political parties.

But anyone who knew about the situation in detail had doubted these claims and "I and my Labour predecessors as secretary of state are deeply concerned this whole thing is unravelling", he said.

At question time, Lord Hain welcomed the Government's rebuttal of criticism of the Good Friday Agreement.

But he added: "We have a political view coming from the Government that doesn't seem to understand the whole Good Friday process ... took years and years to achieve and it is all unravelling in front of us."

Northern Ireland minister Lord Duncan of Springbank assured peers the Good Friday Agreement was the "cornerstone of the UK Government's position".

He said: "It is very easy to knit a jersey and very easy to unravel it. Far too quickly can we lose that which we have spent so long trying to put together."

Peers would share frustration over the continuing deadlock but "in truth this agreement must be delivered by the parties at the table".

Lord Duncan said the parties had been "within a hair's breadth" of achieving agreement, adding: "We don't believe we are at the end of this process. We need to have an executive. The alternatives are not satisfactory. The parties need to get together once again."