“this is a completely untrue statement.”

In response to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s article in the morning press, DUP leader Ian Paisley has clarified his position, but it’s unlikely to be the clarification wanted by some. Update belowFrom the PA report

“I do not agree with the statement of the Prime Minister when he claims that we, the DUP, agreed there could be devolution of policing and justice within a certain time limit,” he said.

“Sinn Fein have said there was a date … this is a completely untrue statement.

“I would ask the Prime Minister to say when this meeting takes place, who asked the question. There is a triple lock in place, when policing is devolved it goes back to the First Minister.”

Also in the morning press, the Belfast Telegraph’s Chris Thornton picks up on an example of insufficent ambiguity which may lie behind the current discussion on target dates.

[Blair’s] looking for the DUP to write ‘devolution’ into a couple of dates in their diaries. The first is March 26, when a power-sharing Executive is supposed to be up and running, provided Sinn Fein say how much they admire the peelers.

And he wants Ian Paisley to say he’s happy to see justice powers transferred from London to Belfast a little over a year later.

This is particularly important. The Sinn Fein leadership forgot all about constructive ambiguity when dealing with their own members, and agreed that they wouldn’t call their special ard fheis on policing without a date for the devolution of justice.

They want to be able to say that the PSNI is an Irish police force for an Irish people.

Since no date has been forthcoming from the DUP, Sinn Fein has threatened to scrap its ard fheis. As yet, no invitations have been sent out.

It’s a point which you may, or may not, remember being mentioned previously…

Update From the BBC report

Downing Street has refused to comment on its private conversations with Northern Ireland parties.

However, a spokesman said Mr Blair’s assessment was based on what should happen if Sinn Fein delivered fully on its commitment to support the police and the rule of law.

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