I interviewed Peter Hain on a few occasions when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, serving under Tony Blair’s government, between 2005 and 2007. In fact, I was working as a journalist for the Impartial Reporter at the time.

More than a decade ago now, Northern Ireland was a different place. You’d assume life would have improved; after all, as time moves forward we expect societal progress to follow in some, if not most areas. And yet, anyone living in Northern Ireland and even those, like me, who watch from afar, know that’s not the case.

Since 2007 there have been many difficulties for the small region to deal with, not least the housing crash, which dominated the economy in the intervening years. More challenging perhaps have been the clashes between different personalities driving (or not driving as the case may be) the political agenda. New leaders – in the north and at Westminster – have done little to push Northern Ireland and in my opinion have been responsible for its regression, particularly over the last few years.

I’m not merely romanticising when I say there was more hope a decade ago than there is now. There was definitely more money around. There certainly weren’t the crises in health and social care or in education so evident today. Lord Hain was responsible for many advanced changes in his role as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, such as the Sure Start programme and seeking to reduce the number of non-elected public bodies or quangos.

I remember Lord Hain explaining – and I’m paraphrasing here – that he didn’t see why Northern Ireland should stand still while other parts of the world continued to move forwards, just because it didn’t have a devolved government up and running. Some of his reforms were controversial to say the least – bringing in private health companies to cut waiting lists for routine operations proved only to be a sticking plaster on a wound that still festers today. Then there was the reform of property rates, which saw an increase of 20 per cent, bringing charges in line with those in England and Wales.

This week Lord Hain has divided opinion by using parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords to reveal Topshop boss Sir Philip Green as the anonymous businessman accused of alleged sexual and racial harassment. Up to that moment, publication of Sir Philip’s alleged involvement had been banned because of a court ruling preventing the publication of “confidential information” from female employees. Many in the judiciary have levelled criticism at Lord Hain, saying he has acted with arrogance, undermined the rule of law and abused his privilege as a parliamentarian. However, to me, that’s a bit like shooting the messenger.

It’s worth noting that at the centre of this case are three very big issues – wealth, power and abuse. The Telegraph newspaper, which carried out an eight-month-long investigation, alleges "substantial sums" were paid to five members of Sir Philip's staff in settlement agreements, which included a legal commitment not to discuss their alleged experiences. Whether you wish to call them gagging clauses or non-disclosure agreements, they are in place to stop people divulging information. They are not uncommon in the corporate sector; their original intended use was to ensure employees couldn’t share trade secrets when they went to work for another business. But worryingly, the rich are increasingly using these confidentiality agreements as hush money, to stop victims making claims about various forms of abuse.

Wealth and power should never be permitted to obstruct an investigation into any forms of abuse in the workplace.

I don’t doubt for one second that Lord Hain considered his decision very seriously to name Sir Philip. Parliamentary privilege is – as the peer himself has said – something to be used “very sparingly and very responsibly”.

In my opinion, Lord Hain’s use of parliamentary privilege hasn’t undermined the judiciary; it has highlighted the fact that there are those in society who are using their affluence and status as a legal weapon to act with impunity. Maybe those condemning Lord Hain should consider this: that it is those with money and power using the law to silence others, who are in fact undermining the judicial system.