According to the Work Plan Timeline, the Assembly & Executive Review Committee’s Inquiry on Devolution of Policing and Justice was due to consider the first draft of their report today. Instead of which they heard from the Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, and, separately, from NIO officials. Interestingly, as a previous statement points out, officials from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister were also scheduled to attend.. but didn’t appear.. In any event there wasn’t anything startling from Hugh Orde although some of those pot-holes were mentioned by committee members.. as well as one or two other concerns. The PSNI is ready for the devolution of those powers, but the timing is a matter for others was his message. He was also keen to emphasise the need to clearly define the relationship between him, the Northern Ireland Policing Board and a new Assembly justice and policing committee. Meanwhile, if it’s not Alex Maskey being thoroughly baffled, it’s another Sinn Féin MLA.From the statement by Assembly & Executive Review Committee member, SF’s Carál Ní Chuilín.
“The devolution of Policing and Justice was a key element in the negotiations that led to the restoration of the political institutions.
“The British government’s commitment to the devolution of Policing and Justice Powers by May 2008 was central to the decision of republicans and nationalists to engage with the policing structures earlier this year. [added emphasis]
“There can be no back-sliding on this commitment. There can be no more excuses.”
What commitment was that again?
If Sinn Féin had been paying attention they’d know what even the current Northern Ireland Secretary of State knows – “It is for the parties to decide when the time is right..”
Of course the apparent confusion among Sinn Fein MLAs is necessary because the leadership told the party membership that, rather than the previous internal party arrangement, the leadership would only commit the party to supporting the police and the criminal justice system under certain conditions
“That this Ard Fheis endorses the Ard Chomhairle motion. That the Ard Chomhairle is mandated to implement this motion only when the power-sharing institutions are established and when the Ard Chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred. Or if this does not happen within the St Andrews timeframe, only when acceptable new partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement are in place.” [added emphasis]
The reality is that devolution of policing and justice powers can only happen following a joint request from the First and deputy First Ministers, confirmed by a vote in the Assembly, and agreed by Parliament.
Imposing those powers against the wishes of the Assembly would be a “constitutional nonsense” – and, importantly, “it is not the intention—nor is the power available to the Government—to do that.”