“any necessary steps..”

Several reports pick up on the UUP leader, Reg Empey’s criticism of a letter from the Secretary of State for Wales, etc, Peter Hain, to the transitional assembly’s sub-group on Justice and Policing. While the Belfast Telegraph say they have seen the letter there is only a short paragraph quoted from it. Reg Empey highlights the content of the letter, correctly, as “a complete negation of the democratic process” before focussing his attention on the DUP. But he’d be better keeping his focus on that “negation of the democratic process” as the proposed appointment of ministers and devolving of powers without agreement would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to implement. Update Thanks to Gonzo, via the UUP, the leaked letter is online[.doc file]According to the reports

Sir Reg Empey said the proposal “trampled on the democratic process”.

“The government has given Sinn Fein an undertaking that there will be devolution of policing and justice powers by 2008 and if there is any nonsense between the parties the government will step in and make the appointments themselves,” he said.

“It is a complete negation of the democratic process, but my primary point is that the DUP were saying devolution of policing and justice will not happen in a political lifetime but it is clear from that letter that it will happen.”

While, from the quoted letter by Peter Hain

Mr Hain’s letter said: “If there was no successful selection of ministers within the timeframe set out by St Andrews the government would take any necessary steps to ensure that the timescale for devolution was not delayed.[added emphasis]

“This includes the appointment of a justice minister.”

The letter also says that the ministers should be appointed by a cross-community vote in the assembly.

In the long-term only one minister will have responsibility for policing and justice, but the government views a deputy minister as necessary in the short-term.

How exactly the Secretary of State would appoint a minister to an Executive, even to a transitional Ministry, and expect an MLA to hold that office in the absence of support within the assembly isn’t detailed.

It’s also not exactly clear from the quotes that Peter Hain has explicitly threatened to devolve policing and justice by May 2008 in the absence of agreement within the assembly, and a less charitable reading of Reg Empey’s comments might suggest that there was a deliberate attempt to misinterpret, but we’ll assume for the moment that Peter Hain does intend that reading.

We’ve already had some of the details of the government’s proposals for the ministry outlined[subs req]

Under a formula devised in the recent talks, a policing model was created based on a proposal tabled by the DUP before Christmas. It means that a department of justice will be established with a minister with full cabinet powers and a junior minister, most likely from the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP.

These ministers will be elected on the so-called “50/50/50” system whereby the ministers must first win at least 50 per cent support of the Assembly members to include 50 per cent support of unionists and 50 per cent support of nationalist members.

However, there is still uncertainty over the time frame for transferring policing and justice powers to the Stormont Executive. The governments believe this formula makes it possible to establish the department by May 2008, as envisaged in the St Andrews Agreement. They hope that Sinn Féin, by initiating this move on policing, will in turn prompt the DUP to soften its refusal to make any commitments on a time frame.

And from the Belfast Telegraph report

Under the Government model, at least before the transfer of powers takes place, the Ministerial positions would effectively fall to Ulster Unionists and the SDLP until replaced by an elected Minister.

By March 27, the newly-elected Assembly is to appoint a Justice Minister and Deputy and then agree a motion necessary to set in process the devolution of justice functions. But the Hain model continued: “If there was no successful election within the timeframe set out at St Andrews, the Government would take any necessary steps to ensure that the timescale for devolution was not delayed.

“This includes the appointment of a Justice Minister and, to ensure cross-community representation, a Deputy Justice Minister.”

Mr Hain said he hoped the sub- group comprised of the four main parties, due to meet again next week, could reach agreement.

But he added: “If that agreement cannot be achieved, however, the model as described… is the basis on which I will legislate to provide a means of selecting ministers…”

The Northern Ireland Office last night said that “contingencies” had to be built in but, with the parties on the brink of a breakthrough on policing, emphasised it believed its model will work.

But it’s worth looking at the current legislation, including the NI (St Anrdews) Act, to see what Hain’s threatened imposition would entail.

The mechanism for requesting the devolution of powers on policing and justice is set out in the NI (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act and, as the NIO minister David Hanson stated in the Commons,

It has always been the Government’s position that policing and justice can be devolved on a sustainable basis only with broad cross-community support. We have put in place a triple lock, as the Assembly must wish to have devolution, the Secretary of State must wish to agree it on behalf of the Government, and the House of Commons must approve it. Consistent with that position, it is our view that the support of the majority of sections of the community in Northern Ireland is essential if the devolution of policing and justice is to succeed. The amendments give legal effect to that position. New subsection (2A) inserted into section 4 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 by new clause 3(3) accordingly provides that the Secretary of State shall not introduce an order to devolve policing and justice unless a number of caveats are in place.

First, the Assembly motion asking the Secretary of State to do that must be tabled by the First and Deputy First Ministers acting jointly. Secondly, that motion should receive support in the Assembly from a majority of designated Unionists and a majority of designated nationalists. Having listened to the discussion, it is self-evident that unless the Assembly has that support it is not worth considering forcing devolution on it. The fact that under the amendments the First and Deputy First Ministers would have to introduce a proposal shows that a majority of community support is necessary. We want a majority of nationalists and designated Unionists to support it, too. New clause 5 (5) introduces a drafting change to that effect.[added emphasis]

When we come to the NI (St Andrews) Act we get the target date and what the Secretary of State will do if, by March 2008, there is not agreement to devolve those powers.

18 Report on progress towards devolution of policing and justice matters

(1) The Northern Ireland Assembly must make a report to the Secretary of State before 27 March 2008—
(a) as to the preparations that the Assembly has made, and intends to make, having regard to paragraph 7 of the St Andrews Agreement, for or in connection with policing and justice matters ceasing to be reserved matters;
(b) as to which matters are likely to be the subject of any request under section 4(2A) of the 1998 Act that policing and justice matters should cease to be reserved matters;
(c) containing an assessment of whether the Assembly is likely to make such a request before 1 May 2008.

(2) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the report before each House of Parliament.

What the Secretary of State now appears to be saying is that if that point is reached he, or more likely another Secretary of State, will ignore everything that has been stated, and everything that is in the current legislation, and go ahead anyway.. and also appoint a minister.

As I said previously

..the Secretary of State may set a target date, and may hope to achieve that date, but the current mechanism for devolving powers on policing and justice already set out, in the NI (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, grants both holders of the offices of First and Deputy First Ministers a veto on whether that goes ahead.

Unless the government is now going to say that, in circumstances where one of the parties holding those offices do not agree that the confidence within the community exists for the devolving of those powers by March 2008 – they are then going to force through devolving powers on policing and justice by May 2008 whatever happens between now and then, the target date remains only a target date and not a commitment.

While the current encumbent’s propensity for taking any step he deems necessary has been well documented there is, in reality, little chance of such a step being taken, never mind succeeding, without the confidence within the community existing.

As Peter Hain made clear just yesterday, devolving powers on policing and justice is dependent on the conditions.

“It has always been clear that none of the parties have discounted, providing the conditions are right, for May 2008 as a target date for the devolution of policing and justice,” he said.

That’s a target date, not a deadline.

, , ,

  • One side believes one interpretation and the other side believes another.

    Clear as mud, as politicians intend.

  • joeCanuck

    Pete

    Excellent background as we can usually expect from you.
    In this case, however, I think the “target” date is written in stone

  • Pete Baker

    joe

    The important thing to note, I’d suggest, is that the target date will be dependent on the conditions on the ground – ie not quite set in stone.

  • inuit_goddess

    So there goes the DUPs much-heralded ‘veto’ on policing…

    FD, T&J etc – still think overselling this deal was the correct strategy???

    The Emperor is increasingly bereft of clothing…

  • Truth and Justice

    Its seems that Sinn Fein and the DUP cant be ministers of any Policing and Justice Department, up to 2011 and then it will have to be cross community support the DUP still has a veto so Empey is talking Dog Poo!and Sinn Fein will never be in charge of Policing thats the reality! The fact that Sinn Fein are looking like supporting the Police which is a good thing so why be so negative the UUP never deliverd Sinn Fein on the rule of law and order the DUP look like they are going to.

  • Alex

    The fact that Sinn Fein are looking like supporting the Police which is a good thing so why be so negative the UUP never deliverd Sinn Fein on the rule of law and order the DUP look like they are going to.

    Posted by Truth and Justice on Dec 30, 2006 @ 06:23 PM

    They did’nt try to, with S/F support will come influence via Policing Board, remember the fuss about the S/F Education Minister, oh how things have changed in DUP land, well in most of it!

  • Alex

    Its seems that Sinn Fein and the DUP cant be ministers of any Policing and Justice Department, up to 2011 and then it will have to be cross community support the DUP still has a veto so Empey is talking Dog Poo!

    ‘Truth and Justice’, if you meant to use the term “can’t” then I would have to say there is no such word as “can’t” with Peter Hain in charge.

    On the other hand if you did indeed mean to use the term ‘cant’ as spelt, I suggest you look it up, I did, here are a few alternative words with the same meaning..Lip service, Hypocrisy, False piety, Insincerity…… You were more accurate with your analysis than you thought!!!!!

  • inuit_goddess

    T&J: It’s precisely that sort of bombastic, incoherent rhetoric that I think is so undermining your case among the wider unionist community.

    Sell whatcha got, not whatcha dream ya got…

  • Frustrated Democrat

    T&J

    Stop digging while you have time…the DUP have no veto read the sentence below…..

    ‘If there was no successful selection of ministers within the timeframe set out by St Andrews the government would take any necessary steps to ensure that the timescale for devolution was not delayed. This includes the appointment of a justice minister.’

    …..it seems to be very clear and specific, the Westminster Government will do what it thinks will serve it best and when it thinks it best, that includes the transfer of justice…. the DUP will not be able to do anything to stop it.

    Do you want to interpret it differently for us?

  • Pete Baker

    FD

    I know Reg Empey is suggesting that the letter contains more detail than in the paragraph quoted, but my reading of that particular paragraph is that it relates to March 2007 and the setting up of the Executive, with a justice minister in shadow form until such time as justice powers are devolved.

  • Truth and Justice

    UUP spin machine can twist it what ever way they want they will never be a Sinn Fein minister for Policing and Justice, if Hain wants to impose a minister from outside and the DUP dont like they can walk away the whole thing folds, Sinn Fein have jumped first and jumped big, the sad people like alex and fustrated democrate need to realize there arguements are not washing in the wider Unionist Community!Get real do you not want a peacfull society or do you want another 35 years of bombs and bullets ????????

  • Frustrated Democrat

    T&J

    What you will not admit is that the DUP have jettisoned every promise and commitment they made to their voters regarding SF.

    1. The DUP will sharepower with SF and there will be an office of First and Deputy First Minister which will be DUP and SF in harness together.

    2. Justice will be transferred.

    3. The veto and triple locks do not exist.

    4. Walking away is no longer an option, only DT had that option.

    So what has moved forward since the GFA? The GFA was utterly opposed by the DUP and apart from minor tinkering around the edges, that would have happened in any event had the assembly been allowed to function, it has been renaned the StAA.

    Contrary to your post, I don’t oppose what is happening I just feel the sheer hypocrisy and lies that have emanated from the the DUP over the last 8 years needs to be clearly and deliberately exposed to the electorate before the election takes place. Only by doing so can the electorate, when they vote, understand what the DUP have cost NI with their innumerable false promises over the last 40 years (see info released from 1976 for example)and especially in the last 8.

    You may be blind to the truth and only see justice (devolved) when it suits you, I can only hope other previous DUP voters are less gullible.

  • Truth and Justice

    A sad frustrated democrate who cant see his nose to spit his face the DUP are delivering and you cant stand it – see ya dont want to be ya.

  • Alex

    T&J, if the Shinners have jumped as you claim it’s only after the Govt removed the DUP veto on Policing & Justice, wake up and smell the coffee, the DUPes have been ‘rolled’ again!

    P.S. how many members have the DUPes lost in Lagan Valley, word on the street is that the ex-UUP faction are getting very jittery about going on the doorsteps this time round, am told a local Chairman is about to jump ship, again!

  • Nationalist

    T&J Hain has made it clear that the British Government will appoint ministers and that includes a minister for Justice, the text reads:

    “If there was no successful election within the timeframe set out at St Andrews, the Government would take any necessary steps to ensure that the timescale for devolution was not delayed.

    “This includes the appointment of a Justice Minister and, to ensure cross-community representation, a Deputy Justice Minister.”

    Therefore if the DUP choose to walk away nothing falls apart, the British Government could and would appoint ministers if required. This affectively removes any notion of a veto that the DUP keep telling us that they have.

    I do believe however that the DUP will most certainly take office once all the hard decisions of privitiation have been made and they can then blame someone else, and of course buy lots of shares for those within the party that don’t already have them, in those companies.

    The Protestant workiong class need to look closer at what they are voting for, the DUP are an ultra right wing Conservative type who are making money at the expense of the Protestant working class – in a similar fashion to the Conservative UUP.

    The only reason they offer people is to ensure that there will never be a united Ireland and that is something that they can not stop as the growing population of Catholics shsows.

    The latest figures show the populations at the end of 2004 at 43.8% Catholic and 53.1% Protestant, the rest as others. The Catholic population only needs 10-15 years to become the Majority population.

    The UUP has alsways counted on the Catholic Alliance vote as being pro union, however those people don’t care as long as they have a decent living and given the Celtic Tiger and the growing economy in an All-Ireland are more likely to vote for a United Ireland.

    Cross border bodies and the Protestant (Unionist) community seeing Sinn Fein in Government will also make it easier for most of them to accept a new Ireland based on true equality, including Sinn Fein ministers for justice.

  • Truth and Justice

    its strange there had not been one DUP resignation however the only resignations have been in recent months one ards UUP Councillor to the DUP and two UUP Councillors to the Conservative, one ex UUP candidate from last Council election in 2005 to the DUP and one ex UUP MLA to the Conservative as i also understand the UUP supported the St Andrews Agreement and were part of the negoiations, and are that scared that there will not be a deal because they are millions in debt. Of course we wont forget the UVF link is that still part of UUP Policy and i understand that in the next several week another UUP MLA is set to leave the sinking ship!

  • Truth and Justice

    You forgot Nationalist if the DUP dont agree the deal there can be no Policing or Justice minister or any other however does it mater aslong as it is not a Sinn FEIN IRA person. As for the out breeding theory there have been more Protestants babies born in the last three years that Roman catholic ones so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • Porlock

    T&J

    “…if Hain wants to impose a minister from outside…”

    Is that why your party is now (albeit privately) begging the UUP to agree a side deal in which the UUP would agree to take the Policing and Justice post.

    Also, in view of the news (contained in a letter from Hain to Speaker Bell)that the SOS is pushing on with the RPA timetable (in spite of a recent Assembly vote asking him to suspend the 7 council proposals)would T&J like to tell us what happened to DUP claims that they had “secured a guarantee” that the RPA proposals were entirely a matter for the Assembly.

    By the way, and on the subject of the Irish Language Act, you should probably begin your backtracking now. Mr. Hain has another surprise for you.

    Happy new year!

    Porlock

  • Truth and Justice

    Firstly im not in the DUP and the deal has not been done as yet because Sinn Fein although looking more likely have not signed up to Policing yet so if there is no deal as yet then Hain will continue on with the RPA, rates, water charges, Education and anything else he fancies

  • Frustrated Democrat

    T & J

    Ok since you ignored my previous points, let’s have specific answers on delivery, and don’t bother to mention the UUP in your answer what they did or didn’t do is history now.

    What have the DUP delivered exactly, above and beyond the GFA?

    What momentous steps have the DUP achieved for the Unionists of NI in the last 3 years?

    Do you deny more and more concessions have been given to SF in the last 3 years?

    Do you deny the DUP have back tracked on their promises to the electorate?

    Do you deny the DUP leader, a man of the cloth, lied to the electorate?

    Be honest the DUP have been given run around by Mr Blair and Mr Ahern not to mention Mr Hain

    Some delivery that is…. wet, paper and bag come to mind.

  • Truth and Justice

    The DUP said they want develotion and have worked to provide a fair deal agree or disagree

    North south bodies there is now a Unionionist veto under the BA there is not

    Ministers are now accountable they were not in the BA Unionists have a veto

    It yakes only three Unionists in an executive to stop anything and 30 MLAs if it goes past the executive

    Cap on rates not in the BA

    Accedemic selection to be be decided but there, SF got rid of it DUP get a form of it back

    Grammar schools to stay under SF they went

    Grand Committee takes place in NI not Westminster that was not in BA

    Financial package work still to be done not it was not in BA

    Ulster Scots to have equallity with the Irish Language not in BA

    East West reltionship to be enhanced

    Funding for Unionist Areas not in the BA

    Sinn Fein to sign up to Policing they are moving in that direction with a pledge of Office for that before allowed to take ministerial office Not in the Belfast Agreement

    Sinn Fein decommissioned not in an ideal way but more than before with witnesses

    Derating og Orange Halls not in the BA

    Victims Commissioner not in the BA

    Taking the UUP and DUP out of it there is much more for Unionism to sign up to than the Belfast Agreement and that is my honest view, Sinn Fein have got very little out of the St Andrews Agreement and have been forced to move. The Irish Language Act as Blair and Hain have stated will be left to the Assembly to decide unless there is no deal in which case the Governments plan B comes into play i belive it will be bad forUnionism and i dont want to go there! Any consessions Sinn Fein got in the last three years have been few but were already agreed under the Western Park Talks and Hillsborough deals when the UUP were in charge, the reality although im sure you will twist it that Unionism have got more for the first time than Sinn Fein and we need to bank it

  • Nationalist

    Truth & Justice, your assumption of more Protestant babies being borne over the last 3 years – exactly where did you get that information from?

    The latest NI Statistics Office output was released in November and updated the population figures to the end of 2004. Those figures show that those in the population with a Catholic Nationalist)background have risen to 43.8% of the total population and that those with Protestant (Unionist) background are at 53.1% of the total population.

    I would like to view the contents of the data where you are making your assumption from, as you may well be misinterpreting the information.

    I do recall David Trimble making a statement a few years ago were he told the Protestant people they had nothing to worry about as for the first time in many years they had produced 50.3% of all babies born in that year. His speech in % terms was correct but his analysis was wrong.

    Having 1 or 2 yewars were the Protestant population produce slightly over the 50% mark only means there is a slight slow down of the continuing rise in the Catholic population – this is due to the fact that the Protestant population Currently at 53.1% is not renewing itself and the Catholic population currently at 43.8% is producing 49.8% of births.

    The end result as is clear in that when a section of the community continues to produce at a rate above it’s populus % then as sure as nighty follows day they will overtake and become the larger population, and as it gets closer the effect will be greater year on year.

    It would however be interesting to see where you got your figures from and how then pan out as in 1991 the Census showed that there were 38.38% Catholic in the total population and therefore by the end of 2004 that figure has rose by 5.42% to become the 43.8% as stated by the NI Statistics office. Those figures show an increased change over a 13 year period.

  • bertie

    T & J is still doing an excellent job of turning unionists off the deal. I will have to try harder not to let him influence me against it.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    T & J

    ‘The DUP said they want develotion and have worked to provide a fair deal agree or disagree.’

    Disagree the StAA is not a Fair Deal it is the GFA with a coat of whitewash

    ‘North south bodies there is now a Unionionist veto under the BA there is not’

    What veto please explain?

    ‘Ministers are now accountable they were not in the BA Unionists have a veto’

    That was already under discussion in the Assembly

    ‘It yakes only three Unionists in an executive to stop anything and 30 MLAs if it goes past the executive.’

    Please explain how this is good for Northern Ireland as it works both ways.

    ‘Cap on rates not in the BA’

    It wasn’t required as this was done by Westninister while the DUP were in charge and the cap was done by the Conservatives in the House of Lords, the DUP weren’t even there

    ‘Accedemic selection to be be decided but there, SF got rid of it DUP get a form of it back’

    Not so there is no agreement on this at all see your point point 3 for veto.

    ‘Grammar schools to stay under SF they went’

    Nonsense it was academic selection that was rejected

    ‘Grand Committee takes place in NI not Westminster that was not in BA’

    So what? Where it meets is irrelevant

    ‘Financial package work still to be done not it was not in BA’

    NI always relies on the UK subvention had the GFA been allowed to work more than £2m would have been available.

    ‘Ulster Scots to have equallity with the Irish Language not in BA’

    This is an advantage? Who cares but a few die hards

    ‘East West relationship to be enhanced’

    How? We are currently under direct rule so how can it be closer?

    ‘Funding for Unionist Areas not in the BA’

    You mean a pay off for Loyalist terrorists, great deal that is.

    ‘Sinn Fein to sign up to Policing they are moving in that direction with a pledge of Office for that before allowed to take ministerial office Not in the Belfast Agreement’

    So what does this actually bring the Unionist in the street? Does it make any difference to them, will the IRA or CIRA or some one else still be able to bomb and shoot unionists if they want to?
    I think this has the possibily of splitting republicanism and that is not to the benefit of Unionists in the short term.

    ‘Sinn Fein decommissioned not in an ideal way but more than before with witnesses’

    And this achieved what exactly for Unionists?

    ‘Derating of Orange Halls not in the BA’

    So what, not all Unionists are Orangemen

    ‘Victims Commissioner not in the BA’

    And what does that bring to Unionism?

    As I said don’t bother to mention the UUP concentrate on the lies told by the DUP and ask youself just how good a deal is this – give me Sunningdale any day – you know the one that was scuppered by the RIP