After, after you..

With the DUP’s Peter Robinson focussing attention on the more immediate deadline, and the likelihood of slippage, his fellow MP Nigel Dodds has taken the opportunity to reassure any potential dissent within the party, and rattle Sinn Féin’s cage, by pointing to the less securely tied down timeframe for devolving policing and justice powers.Added linksalso reported in The Irish Times[subs req]

“It will take a political lifetime before attitudes on this issue will change,” he said. “The DUP has secured a double safeguard in that devolution of policing and justice will only take place if a majority of unionists in an Assembly were to vote for it and a unionist first minister were to propose it. Both these propositions are unlikely to happen in the conceivable future, certainly under DUP control.”

He added: “The British government and Sinn Féin need therefore to be honest with people and not to pretend that republicans will get their hands on such powers. They will not.”

Jeffrey Donaldson also added a point on potential slippage on the 10th November deadline

“There is more to do,” he said. “There will be no rush to judgment in the coming days. We are pledged to consult widely and I would encourage unionists . . . to participate in our consultation process.”

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly’s reaction should probably be viewed in light of the potential question a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis may face.. and the party’s previously stated policy requiring a confirmed deadline for such devolution before they would endorse the police.

Sinn Fein’s policing and justice spokesman Gerry Kelly said it was “crazy” for the DUP to ask his party to sign up to policing and justice and then deny them any influence on the issue for years to come.

“They should not be able to demand that nationalists sign up to this issue of policing and justice and then say that you won’t have any influence on it for a generation,” he said.

The following paragraphs should also be noted from the St Andrews Agreement – which reflects the current quadruple lock on devolving those powers – and which is due to be endorsed by 10th November..

5 We have consistently said that support for policing and the rule of law should be extended to every part of the community. We believe that all the parties share this objective. Notwithstanding the right of every political party to hold the police to account, we believe that there are fundamental principles of support for the police and the courts which underpin any democratic society.

6 We believe that the essential elements of support for law and order include endorsing fully the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the criminal justice system, actively encouraging everyone in the community to co-operate fully with the PSNI in tackling crime in all areas and actively supporting all the policing and criminal justice institutions, including the Policing Board.

7 Discussions on the devolution of policing and justice have progressed well in the Preparation for Government Committee. The governments have requested the parties to continue these discussions so as to agree the necessary administrative arrangements to create a new policing and justice department. It is our view that implementation of the agreement published today should be sufficient to build the community confidence necessary for the Assembly to request the devolution of criminal justice and policing from the British government by May 2008.[added emphasis]

It’s the quadruple lock in the current legislation which Nigel Dodds was referring to.

And, while Gerry Kelly, as the St Andrews paragraphs did, referred to the discussions on timing and models for devolved powers

“The real fact is that the transfer of powers needs to happen and will happen. The governments have set out their intent for this to happen in the St Andrews document. The way forward now is for the DUP to sit down with ourselves and work out the detail of timetable and model.”

Aside from the current legislation on devolving those powers, the actual details of previous discussions on those issues, on 30th August, provide less grounds for optimism..

Mr McFarland: As I said at the beginning, trust is a product of engagement. Trust does not exist at the outset of discussions; it is the end product of people dealing with one another.

I want to return to one of Raymond McCartney’s points. As I understand it, he said that Sinn Féin has three requirements in relation to the devolution of policing and justice: a timescale; the models to be agreed; and an agreement to transfer. Should those requirements be met, that would do the business.

Mr Raymond McCartney: No, that is not the complete list of requirements. I am not going to give the party’s complete negotiation position right now, but those requirements are only part of it. Those are the issues that we discussed at this Committee. That is what I said.[added emphasis]

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Policing Board, Desmond Rea, has offered to talk to Sinn Féin about their position