“If they want a positive response to what they do then they will have to do something”

Liam Clarke, in the Sunday Times, notes the sceptical voices within the DUP, including MP for East Londonderry, Gregory Campbell – “This will not fly by the end of March.”. But the main focus of the piece is the target date for devolving powers on policing and justice which, as I noted yesterday, has already been linked to the conditions on the ground by Peter Hain, “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”. Added link belowLiam Clarke notes the demand for a firm deadline by Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff

Barry McElduff, a Sinn Fein MLA, said yesterday that his party required a firm date for the devolution of policing and justice powers before it would formally endorse the PSNI.

But, at the risk of repeating myself, it’s difficult to see how such a deadline could be enforced without agreement.

Something that the DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson emphasised in his response to that demand, and he makes a valid point in reference to the SF stipulation for a positive response from the DUP [added link]

Peter Robinson, the DUP deputy leader, refused to give comfort to Sinn Fein on either of these points. Instead, he rejected key parts of a British government paper entitled The Devolution of Policing and Justice, which formed the background to Sinn Fein’s ard comhairle meeting.

The paper proposes that a justice minister and a deputy justice minister should be elected by a cross-community vote by May 2008. This requires the support of 50% of both nationalist and unionist blocs in the assembly and would make it unlikely that either the DUP or Sinn Fein could take the ministry.

This was proposed by the DUP but the British government has added a rider. This states that if the two ministers are not elected by May 2008, London will appoint them over the heads of the parties.

Robinson said: “If they do that they will never get the government up and running.”

He added that his party had “vetoes contained within the law” on the appointment of a justice minister and said “if they try and change that then clearly all bets are off”. Robinson made it clear that his party would seek the removal of the paper’s proposal this week and he ruled out any concessions to secure Sinn Fein’s support.

“This has the potential to be a historic moment. But unionists will want to see Sinn Fein’s motion to ensure that there is no conditionality. We want to make sure there is no price to our community and we want it delivered on the ground,” he said.

Responding to Sinn Fein’s stipulation that the DUP should give a positive response before the ard fheis was called, Robinson said: “That is their problem. What is there to positively respond to? If they want a positive response to what they do then they will have to do something.”[added emphasis]