Empey's empty threat?

So, the UUP leader Reg Empey has threatened to boycott the NI Policing Board should Secretary of State, Peter Hain, appoint two independent members to the positions which would otherwise be taken by Sinn Féin representatives, arguing that “This is a crisis in the making, we will not serve on a quango.”. Hmm.. there are some problems with that statement, and potentially with any attempt to replace SF appointees with independents. The first one being, technically, it’s already a quango.

1. Under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, while the Assembly is suspended, all members of the Policing Board are currently appointed by the Secretary of State and he can select both the number of members and, after consultation naturally, who actually sits.

3. – (1) The Board shall consist of not less than 14 nor more than 19 members appointed by the Secretary of State.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order amend either or both of the numbers for the time being specified in sub-paragraph (1).

(3) The Secretary of State shall so exercise his powers of appointment under this paragraph as to secure that as far as is practicable the membership of the Board is representative of the community in Northern Ireland.

So the UUP are already serving on a quango.

2. If, however, Peter Hain wishes to maintain the policy of constituting the Board as if the Assembly was not suspended then, in accordance with the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, after allowing the political parties to nominate their representatives, he should re-appoint the independent places, the “9 [who] shall be appointed by the Secretary of State in accordance with paragraph 8” –

8. – (1) The Secretary of State shall so exercise his powers of appointment under paragraph 6(1)(b) as to secure that as far as is practicable the membership of the Board is representative of the community in Northern Ireland.

To be fair, Peter Hain has stated that the D’Hondt formula will be used to appoint all political members of the Policing Board

“I can tell the house today that I have decided to reconstitute the Board from 1 April 2006, with political appointees selected in proportion to the 2003 election results using the d’Hondt formula.”

Although he doesn’t specifically address what will happen when, or if, Sinn Féin refuse to take their seats – not even when asked directly in the House of Commons

Of course, by April it may all be academic.. which, undoubtedly, Peter Hain is hoping it will be. The alternative would be Sinn Féin suggesting, or approving, independent members to take their seats.. hmm..

  • Pat, Upper Ardoyne

    If the Unionist parties are true to their word and not telling lies then either the UUP or DUP will not be on the policing board. Come next April if Sinn Fein do not take up their seats right away then the UUP will have to withdraw after this ranting from Reg Empty or look spineless fools, or if Sinn Fein do take their seats the DUP will have to eat the humble pie after Paisley jnr stated they would never sit on a policing board with them.

    This of course is what standing on the wings shouting the odds at everyone gets you, it’s just a matter of which unionist party is going to turn out to be the biggest fools.

  • stu

    Thank you for that constructive and helpful comment, Pat.

    If the UUP were capable of surprising me these days, I’d be surprised. Reg needs to accept that defiance for its own sake is counter-productive. As Pete pointed out, he already serves on a quango. However, this deflects away from the real issue; why are Sinn Fein not taking their seats? As Hain says:

    “They have expressed no intention of doing so, but if they want to get involved in devolved government… they will have to take their responsibilities for policing seriously, including going on the board.”

  • Henry94

    If the Police Board became a real means of holding the police accountable then Sinn Fein should join.

    If it was already serious then the UUP would take it seriously. Their childishness proves the point Sinn Fein have been making all along.

  • Baluba

    Hit the nail on the head that Henry94 ye boy ye.

  • aquifer

    Hain intends to appoint enough non-political members to avoid the politicos sabotaging the board at a future date. That is pre-empting a crisis, but Reg Empty somehow imagines it may be creating one. How so, are 100,000 UUP supporters going to rush onto the streets in protest? Reg is asking Hain to call his bluff, and Hain should oblige him again, just to teach him not to talk silly.

  • levee

    I posted about Reg Empey’s statement before I read this. Personally, I am sick of politicians holding a gun to our heads by threatening the stability of the Policing Board.

    I had high hopes for Reg as a successor to David Trimble, but so far he’s failed to deliver anything positive. I would love to know what his game is – indeed, if he has any strategy at all.