“They accept that there may be some slippage..”

As was expected, the issue of the devolution of policing and justice powers featured heavily when Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern met in Manchester.

“We stand ready to help the political parties as they work to complete the process of devolution through the devolution of policing and justice powers.” They added: “Having seen the huge progress made, we are convinced that the time is right for the parties to move forward and take the final steps towards full devolution and full normality.”

Northern Ireland First minister, the DUP’s Ian Paisley, responded this morning

“We have no St Andrews Agreement on this issue,” he said. “This idea that it must be done by May is not our idea and we never agreed to it.”

That response echoed that of the Finance minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, last night

“While Mr Brown and Mr Ahern may feel the ‘time is right’ we do not hold to such a view while the IRA Army Council still exists, neither the funding package nor modalities are agreed and other issues remain unresolved, ” he said, noting that rather than deadlines and dates, he ought to address the resource and other pressures’ impact on the effectiveness of the police as priority.

While, unreported elsewhere, the Irish Times has an additional quote worth noting, from a spokesman for the Taoiseach [subs req]

Despite this call [From the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach], however, Mr Ahern’s spokesman acknowledged that the deadline was not likely to be met: “They accept that there may be some slippage, but that should not be seen as a failure,” he said.

The Irish Times report has more of Peter Robison’s comments [subs req]

Last night DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson contested the two premiers’ view that the “time is right” for devolution of policing and justice.

“We do not hold to such a view while the IRA army council still exists, neither the funding package nor modalities are agreed and other issues remain unresolved,” he said.

“If Mr Brown really wants to respond to the people, he ought to listen to their growing lack of confidence in the ability of the PSNI to address the rising rate of crime. Rather than discussing deadlines and dates, he ought to address the resource and other pressures which are having such an adverse impact on the operational effectiveness of our police service. That should be his priority.”

He warned: “Ultimately, the decision to devolve the powers will be made by the Assembly, but not until we are satisfied beyond doubt that the circumstances are right and that there is the necessary confidence and support within the community.”

Meanwhile Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey has repeated a previous claim

“The transfer of powers on Policing and Justice was a key element in the negotiations that led to the restoration of the political institutions. There was agreement on the transfer of Policing and Justice and much work is ongoing to pave the way for this to happen.

“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. Bertie Ahern and Gordon Brown have again emphasised the requirement that this is the next step for local politicians.”

But as I pointed out previously

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.”

Adds More quotes from the NI First minister Ian Paisley

“Our 2007 election manifesto stated quite clearly that this move `can only happen when there is the necessary support within the community`. As First Minister I have absolutely no intention of bringing such a proposal to the Assembly as the necessary conditions do not exist.

“I do not sense any desire amongst the electorate for the devolution of policing and justice. Therefore I do not foresee a proposal being brought to the Assembly in the near future.

“I have asked the Prime Minister for an urgent meeting to discuss this issue.

“I will not be bullied or cajoled by either Gordon Brown or the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic.”

, , , ,

  • kensei

    “If Mr Brown really wants to respond to the people, he ought to listen to their growing lack of confidence in the ability of the PSNI to address the rising rate of crime. Rather than discussing deadlines and dates, he ought to address the resource and other pressures which are having such an adverse impact on the operational effectiveness of our police service. That should be his priority.”

    Hnnngh. Heaven forbid you actually take control of those powers (and I assume any new devolved department has its Budget set by the Finance Ministry) yourself and actually do something about it.

    Unionism’s argument on this is totally contradictory and based solely on the idea that Sf want it so it must be bad.

  • steve48

    The DUP will not tarry long on this issue perhaps only until the late summer or autumn. They will want the decision taken and powers devolved long before any election to Europe or Westminister to prevent the McCreas saying one thing while Robinson is saying another.

  • “I will not be bullied or cajoled by either Gordon Brown or the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic.”

    Paisley snr isn’t the only DUPer getting edgy. He’s forgotten Bertie’s name already!!

    Page 3 stunner (Portadown News), Sammy Wilson, is seething with envy: “Jim Allister is in danger of becoming the poster-boy of the Freedom of Information Act”

  • CS Parnell

    Another stunning success for Sinn Fein then.

  • Dec

    Another stunning success for Sinn Fein then.

    Quite. Can anyone tell me what exactly SF has achieved in the Parliament of Northern Ireland Stormont Assembley? Answers on the back of a postage stamp please.

  • “We do not hold to such a view while the IRA army council still exists, neither the funding package nor modalities are agreed and other issues remain unresolved, ..” .. Robinson

    If the price is right, ..

  • Greenflag

    ‘If the price is right, .. ‘

    Question :

    ‘What’s the difference between a whore and a politician’

    Answer:

    The former has little principle and zero religious scruples but only screws the punters one at a time . The latter has loadsa principles and loadsa religious scruples and screws all of the punters some of the time or some of the punters all of the time .

    Where there’s law there is injustice !

    Hey it could be a lot worse !

    On balance Paisley has got it right -NI is a long way from being given control of policing and justice . It will happen and hopefully not when it’s already too late:(.

  • The End is nigh

    Its worth reflecting back to the motion passed at the 2007 special Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis which stated:- “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”.

    The SF leadership knew back then that there would be little chance of P&J;powers being devolved, hence the little caveat in the final sentence.

    Mind you, they didn’t present it in that fashion to their members or supporters.

    In his statement immediately after that Ard Fhéis, Adams said,”It would be entirely wrong to allow the most negative elements of unionism a veto over republican and nationalist efforts to achieve the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement.” Strange, because signing up to St Andrew’s gave the unionists that veto on policing, the Irish Language Act, etc, but then Gerry and co didn’t inform their members and supporters of that either.

    So what do the next few months hold? Very simple – the leadership will be gathering the party sheep together again to feed them more spin and bullshit, just as was done in the run-up to last year’s special Ard Fheis, in order to cover up the reality of their failures. At the AGM of SF in Ulster, held recently in Letterkenny, Gerry Adams set out some of the calendar of work ahead for party hacks, including the 2008 Ard Fhéis in four weeks, and a second run of ‘Town Hall Meetings’ that are scheduled for April.

    “These events will provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the positive gains made in the last ten years, the positive work that has been done on policing and justice since last January, and to outline our Sinn Féin vision for the road ahead and the achievement of our republican goals”, said Adams, who continued, “These meetings will also provide Sinn Féin with an opportunity to report on our stewardship and to explain our strategy and goals for the time ahead.”

    And will no doubt set the scene, and acclimatise the remaining faithful, for the announcement of the disbandment the IRA. Yes, folks, Adams and co are set to deliver that which the might to the British couldn’t achieve.

  • The End is nigh

    That should have read “that which the might of the British couldn’t achieve.”

  • BonarLaw

    The End is nigh

    “that which the might of the British couldn’t achieve”. Maybe nobody could win (or lose) the shooting war but on the intel front game, set and match to the government. Sir Ronnie and his SB mates deserve a grateful nations’ thanks.

  • sceolaing

    Connor Murphy keeps crowing that he is the man who “introduced the P.S.N.I. to Crossmaglen” Will he have to un-introduce, de-introduce or whatever the latest jargon is, them now if Stormont doesn’t jump to S.F,s demands on justice powers?

  • Ian

    Adams has already effectively allowed for a seven-month slippage in his New Year message (he referred to 2008 as the year in which justice powers should be dissolved), so I don’t think SF are too uptight about the May deadline.

    The timing will probably tie-in with the 2009 Westminster and Euro elections but also with disbandment of the Army Council (expect Adams’ speech at the 2008 Ard Fhéis to go along the lines of “Time and again the IRA have shown themselves willing to make courageous moves in order to bolster the peace process”), which would be a big boost for the Dupes going into those elections against the UUP and Allister’s TUV.

    Also, it needs to be sorted in advance of Paisley’s succession, as Dodds is a bit of a loose cannon on the issue and could mess up the potential deal to be done if there’s a leadership election in progress.

    “Unionism’s argument on this is totally contradictory and based solely on the idea that SF want it so it must be bad.”

    Kensei, I totally agree with you that Unionism’s opposition is based on that childish notion, and that if they stopped to think about it they and their community would stand to gain from devolution of justice (greater influence on sentencing powers being but one example).

    However, the same argument could be put to Republicanism re: the disbandment of the IRA Army Council. “Unionists want it so it must be bad.” On the contrary, at this stage in the peace process perhaps Republicans should have a rational debate about the merits of the case for Army Council disbandment if it guarantees the objective of justice devolution.

    Bearing in mind that the AC no longer performs any tangible function, but its continued existence is used as a stick with which to beat the Republican movement – not only by Unionists but also, and perhaps more detrimentally, by the southern media and political establishment.

  • Ian

    ‘he referred to 2008 as the year in which justice powers should be dissolved’

    should read ‘devolved’ obviously.

    In the last paragraph I meant to add ‘perhaps more detrimentally’…

    … to SF’s electoral growth as an all-Ireland party. (With regards to which perception is as important as reality, so it matters not whether or not Republicans actually had any hand in events like the Paul Quinn killing, for example.)

  • Ian

    Interesting Editorial in the Belfast Tele:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/opinion/article3420795.ece

    “Policing and justice must, without doubt, be transferred at some stage this year – even the PSNI, while ready for the move in May, are reported to prefer the autumn. Why get hung up on a spring deadline?”