“Do not get hung up on dates. That is not critical.”

The House of Commons NI Grand Committee met yesterday, for a debate on policing reform which was described by NIO minister Paul Gogins as “excellent”. And in the course of that debate the DUP MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, who is also chair of the sub-committee of the Executive here tasked with assessing whether to request the transfer of powers on policing and justice from Parliament, set out the DUP’s position on that request [scroll down to column 35] – in case anyone is still “thoroughly baffled”

Let me be clear: the Democratic Unionist party will not support the devolution of policing and justice powers unless and until there is sufficient community confidence to ensure that policing and justice devolution can work effectively and have the support of the community. That will require a number of things to happen. I shall not list them for the Committee, but I will say the following. I agree with my right hon. Friend; there is no way that we will agree to the devolution of policing and justice powers when the IRA army council remains in place—no way. That is an issue that Sinn Fein will have to address and deal with.

A further point on the devolution of policing and justice powers is that we support it in principle and believe that it is desirable. However, it is desirable at the right time and under circumstances where there is sufficient community confidence. That is essential. I reiterate and reaffirm what my right hon. Friend said to the Minister: it would be wrong for the Government to start setting deadlines on that issue. Do not make May next year a deadline because it will have the potential seriously to undermine the political progress that has been made. Do not get hung up on dates. That is not critical. What is critical is that progress is made to build the confidence in the community that will enable policing and justice powers to be devolved to the Assembly in the right circumstances and with the right level of support. I hope that the Minister will take that on board.

And I’ll repeat the point I made in a previous post here

Here’s the question from Lib Dem MP Lembit Öpik, and the answer from David Hanson, that seems to clarify the situation best

Lembit Öpik: I understand what the Minister says is the intent of the Bill, but will he answer the following question? Is it theoretically possible for a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to use the powers in the new clause to establish a functioning Department if the Assembly does not support that or if it has major doubts about it?

Mr. Hanson: No, it is not the intention—nor is the power available to the Government—to do that. Under the proposed legislation, the Government can establish a Department. That does not mean that the devolution of functions will occur, nor that the transfer will occur. They are subject to legislation that we have discussed previously in the House.

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  • Michael Shilliday

    Wasn’t that the same precondition to entering the Executive? Together with handing back the Northern money?

    Never mind eh.

  • Cruimh

    Ezekiel 18:2 Michael 🙂

  • Michael your constant sniping at the DUP is tedious.

    Your party supported powersharing with SF when there was no “significant” decommissioning, when parties in the Executive were opposed to the Police service and justice system.

    Now unless the UUP are willing to wear “sackcloth and ashes” and admit they were wrong to do so the sound of crashing greenhouse glass will always drown out the opposition to the DUP.

  • Michael Shilliday

    It doesn’t logically follow that the UUP were wrong, but that’s not the point. The point is the DUP made several political careers selling the message the the UUP were wrong. Now look at them. They’ve gone further on many issues, yet somehow now it’s ok for SF to be in government, going back on at LEAST 2 preconditions.

  • Do Sinn Fein abstain from the Grand Committee, or is it only the Commons proper that they need to take the oath for?

  • Pete Baker


    They have to take their seats in Parliament before being eligible to sit on any Committee of Parliament.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Oh dear, jeffrey, are you really sure…

    So now we have to have a formal disbandment of the IRA Army Council. Yeah, and in return for a gesture that is meaningless in practical terms the Shinners extract a whole series of concrete concessions, because all the time the actual members of the Army council can and will continue to associate-perhaps in a ministerial office or limo- and plot exactly as before.

    Because-astonishingly- the Army council has mever held public meetings or published its minutes, and yet has functioned quite effectively for years. How would we ever know it had really disbanded anyway?

    Yet another stupid Unionist tactical hurdle, trying to tie the Shinners up on a symbolic hook.And you still don’t get it- the tactic never works.They don’t do principles- at least not like you. The civil servants will find a fudge with the shinner tacticians, and dole out them some goodies, and you’ll be behind the 8 ball again-forced to cave in on policing and justice like you did on everything else.It might be based on IMC reports, or time based, but it’ll already have been drafted.

    You’re either in government with them the whole way or you’re not. Your one bargaining card has been played. To posture like this is only inviting ridicule.

  • But Michael the UUP were wrong. The UUP allowed SF into goverment before decommissioning the DUP did not.Although they did get themselves on a hook over verification.

    The UUP did not recquire the support of the Police Service of Northern Ireland or the justice system by all Executive members, the DUP did. Again with the wisdom of hidsight they might have been careful over the length of a testing period.

    Why do you refuse to see the difference between the UUP and DUP strategy and positions.

    You are right in that the DUP have become successful because of effective oppostion. But there was something worth opposing, you oppose the DUP because they are the DUP not because of their policy or strategy.

    But no doubt all the above points will be well made when Gordon Brown calls an early election.

  • Billy


    You beat me to it. As well as the examples of DUP U-turns that you rightly quote, the fact that this comes from Jeffrey Donaldson is ironic.

    If memory serves, he eventually developed the backbone to leave the UUP (after causing internal ructions for a long time).

    He said that he joined the DUP because they were against the movement from the UUP. Then the DUP signed up to all the things that Jeffrey said he wouldn’t accept and, there he was, on TV and Radio being an eloquent advocate of these policies.

    Nothing like consistency eh?

    Why should anyone take this statement from him (or Paisley, Robinson, Dodds, Campbell, McCrea, Simpson) seriously?

    They have hardly shown themselves to be unbending men of principle have they?

    For what it’s worth, I believe that the govt will delay the devolution of these powers for perhaps another 6 – 12 months beyond next May.

    However, this will merely be a face-saving exercise for the DUP as was the 6 week delay in actually forming the assembly after the DUP had decided to go into it.

  • Nevin

    Does the ‘legitimate government‘ of the island of Ireland still exist or has it, like McDowell, shuffled off into the sunset?

  • Stonewall

    I dont remember seeing the IRA decomission? Did anyone here see them decomission? NO

    Thats right a bunch of political pawns were told to tell us they decomissioned!

    UUP and DUP Both wrong, both think they gained such wonderful things when in reality they have gained nothing and given everything away!