“How long is a roll of string..”

The timing of devolving policing and justice powers got a mention in that wide-ranging discussion noted here – with Reg Empey suggesting the Legislative Assembly provide evidence of competency on the powers they have before requesting more – and later in the Politics Show Jim Fitzpatrick, referencing the “timely” NIO poll, introduced Vincent Kearney’s report on the issue. Among the points made was the absence of detailed discussions on what powers would actually be devolved, the necessary preparations required before taking on a Ministry for Justice and, in particular, Scotland’s Lord Advocate gets several mentions. And, since Alex Maskey is mentioning those “commitments” again, here’s another timely reminder of those commitments, deadlines and target dates.
Given the repeated references to Scotland, and the Lord Advocate’s role there, it’s worth pointing out that there are set limits to the allowable questioning of the Lord Advocate by MSPs.

7. If a Law Officer is not an MSP s/he is empowered to participate in the proceedings of the Parliament but may not vote (SA s.27). S/he can therefore be questioned by MSPs about the exercise of his or her functions, although s/he may not be required to answer questions or produce documents relating to the operation of the system of criminal prosecution in any particular case if s/he considers that it might prejudice criminal proceedings or would otherwise be contrary to the public interest (SA s.27(3)). Under the Parliament’s Standing Orders, written questions about the operation of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths are answerable only by the Law Officers, as are oral questions on those matters in all but exceptional circumstances (Rules 13.5.1, 13.7.1 and 13.8.3).

  • DC

    There are some real issues with devolving powers of policing to Stormont and those limits regarding allowable questions come to mind the most.

    In relation to historical enquiries which is headed up by PSNI, the police are furnished with and keepers of info relating to informers both republican and loyalists.

    The consequences couldn’t be clearer if Stormont was in control of management and scrutiny via calling of papers for examination.

    I imagine Sir Hugh would refuse such intrusive requests on a more fundamental right, the right to life, which alluded Denis Donaldson.

    Paisley and the DUP are a bunch of bastards they should have backed the GFA and settled down with the SDLP. Now look where we have ended up!

    But that’s an aside.

  • DC

    And hasten to add that powers should be devolved as per the clear implications of St Andrews of the onus to deliver at some point on it.

    Because when you are at a point of power-sharing with SF there really isn’t much point denying the inevitable especially under a pretext of no ‘confidence’.

    The democratic mandate was given at the March elections for power-sharing people want power then it is the right invested in that mandate for such powers to happen.

    DUP dealt now deliver along with its co-partners SF. If the DUP want to waste time for time wasting sake then the irresponsibility of that could have repercussions, perhaps collapse.

    If that happens hopefully unionists will at least vote the UUP back because they were the ones who really did the hard work and provided progress and tried to explain a few political truths in the face of DUP ridicule.

  • Pete Baker


    If, as Alex Maskey has repeatedly claimed, Sinn Féin have commitments to anything more than a “target date” of May 2008 then they should produce those commitments.

    Until they do I’ll refer you, again, to the stated commitments of the UK government

    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.”

  • DC

    You always do like to refer me to that point but then its a symbiotic system up there at Stormont and collective recognition of a collective grouping would at least require, yes, SF to provide that drive and the DUP to provide reasoning. For or against.

    Negotiate and deliver, if you deliver a mini ‘no’ then please lets hear more about that substantive other than a claim over confidence problems. Says who? And if there is a problem with confidence why is there enough confidence to let SF take education, take responsibility of that key ministry.

    The impression is that while the DUP at one stage won the confidence through specious arguments party philosophy is now disintegrating because of the faulty ambiguous stance sold to its electorate.

    As mentioned at least the UUP negotiated and delivered with a level of truth. You can’t share power with SF then dither over confidence while turning up to sit down, with those who lack confidence, to carry on governing Northern Ireland.

    Or at least that perception will win out amongst the electorate who don’t have time to digest the disparate conditions associated with policing and justice governance. They will see DUP-SF cutting it out and fail to understand why the last piece cant be provided if they have gone this far already.

    Time to deal to for the bhoys. It was the DUP that argued enough to take us all to the extremities of political life here, now their recent hell-for-leather means they must deliver under those political conditions of which they largely created themselves.

    From a centrist view, it is appropriate to recognise a collective approach to governance and the DUP must do better than coin ‘no confidence’ as a term used to refuse powers against the expressed wishes of a large part of Northern Ireland’s electorate. And as recent polls show, perhaps then, a majority of Northern Ireland’s electorate.

  • joeCanuck

    Paisley and the DUP are a bunch of bastards they should have backed the GFA and settled down with the SDLP.

    Surely you mean Sunningdale, DC, not the GFA?

    Slow learners indeed.

  • Pete Baker


    Pure sophistry.

    If, as Alex Maskey has repeatedly claimed, Sinn Féin have commitments to anything more than a “target date” of May 2008 then they should produce those commitments.

    Until they do I’ll refer you, again, to the stated commitments of the UK government.

    Sinn Féin don’t have any actual commitments then?

    Because it’s the claiming that they do have those commitments, when the reality is that they do not, which damages their credibility.

  • joeCanuck

    Just a thought. There may be a few youngsters around here who don’t know that we had a power sharing Assembly/Parliament back in 1973 which was brought down by Paisley, principally, unleashing mobs of thugs onto the streets.

  • Pete Baker


    Neither was that power-sharing Assembly of 1973 supported by Sinn Féin.

  • joeCanuck

    I know, Pete. But is arguable that Sinn Fein, who had essentially negligible support at that time, would not have risen to where they are now had that Assembly been given time to demonstrate that we could co-exist peaceably. In fact, I would say that it isn’t arguable, it is almost a dead certainty.

  • DC

    Joe perhaps, but the impact of European governance hadn’t fully developed enough to allow unionists to understand benefits of pooled sovereignty, which circumscribed national integrity but allowed borderless political development. A council of Ireland, even in theoretical terms indeed without impacts of any violence, was just beyond unionists at that point.


    ‘Pure sophistry’

    SF-DUP aren’t conditions in themselves the people decide what representative governance should look like and so far they seem to hobbling into a JFDI category because of where we have now ended up due to DUP-SF brokerage.

    The NIO have played a part; however, you seem to be suggesting that a large part of the democratic franchise should be bought off plainly over ‘no confidence’.

    Look who is up at Stormont, where is there no confidence. Who dealt and promoted the St Andrews agreement, and who voted? It’s time to deliver.

  • Pete Baker


    “It’s time to deliver.”

    I’ve detailed the actual public commitments to deliver – by Government.

    Perhaps you’d like to detail your imaginary commitments?

  • joeCanuck

    Is there a way to involve representatives from the parties to hold a watching brief within those departments currently responsible to gain experience in running such departments?

  • DC

    NIO poll Pete. Straw poll, people power, democratic franchise over St Andrews.

    Are you seriously, honestly, suggesting that St Andrews didn’t equal backing for police in return for devolved policing powers and justice to allow for devolved power linked to electoral support powers given to SF-DUP to do just that?

    Even smickers on the street knows that those were the conditions of the deal and deliverable within that term. Why waste time unless sophistry has been engaged, although not by me, but rather by other parties looking to dodge concrete certainties of that deal.

  • Pete Baker

    So, DC, no actual commitment to that target date.

  • joeCanuck

    We know there’s going to be slippage, Pete.
    Even if the DUP think we are ready, they aren’t going to admit that.
    They believe that they have to show to their constituency that they weren’t pushed around at St.Andrew’s and that they are the ones in control.
    That is why there was slippage in devolution.
    It’ll be done by year end.

  • DC

    ‘target date’ – Pete you make nice posts about NASA hitting satellites etc, now if they didn’t have a target then they couldn’t achieve hit with appropriate results.

    Target is an anticipated object under a democratic aim (Peter Hain ruined targets but he is now out of favour and indeed off course) that SF and others wants to achieve a hit on. Look, far be it from me to advocate this, but, the interpretation widely digested from St Andrews in the midst of current political advancement to favour the DUP-SF axis, shows that, after election, enough of a mandate was given so that that devolved policing should happen.

    So if it cant happen, if not, just please tell us why not especially in the current devolved context. No confidence just doesn’t reverberate sufficiently to protect that democratic mandate given by the people to see to it that it does.

  • joeCanuck

    Barring some spectacular own goal by SF, of course. No IRA corporate decisions, that is.

  • DC

    Of course, yes, save that of a judiciary finding a smoking gun in political SF, yes true.

  • Billy


    “We know there’s going to be slippage, Pete.
    Even if the DUP think we are ready, they aren’t going to admit that.
    They believe that they have to show to their constituency that they weren’t pushed around at St.Andrew’s and that they are the ones in control.
    That is why there was slippage in devolution.
    It’ll be done by year end.”

    Dead right, in my opinion.

    Pete can link to all the official documents/statements he likes – we are talking about politics in the real world here.

    I truly doubt if anyone in Sinn Fein really thought the P&J;powers would be devolved by May -if they did they were very naive.

    Equally I doubt if most DUP voters or Unionist voters in general really believe they can block it beyond the end of this year.

    It’s just another example of posturing to look as if they’ve played hard ball – the 7 week delay between announcing that they would join an administration with Sinn Fein and doing so is a classic example. The outcome was inevitable but the DUP were able to “save face” to a degree.

    In this case, Sinn Fein will be able to claim that they fought hard and got P&J;powers devolved. The DUP can claim that they ignored a UK govt deadline and accepted this in their own time.

    In the time scale of NI troubles, another few months won’t make much difference.

    The bottom line is that the UK, RoI and US govts all want this to happen. They’ll accept the slippage (which was always foreseen) and ensure it’s done by the end of the year.

    Whether Unionists like it or not, the govts (UK in particular) control the purse strings and they will dictate what happens.

  • DC

    And that about predicts an ‘end of’ situation to this issue.

    So, time for over-paid politicos to whistle this out to a tune that suits them and can be taken up and adored via respective electorates. Although on a wider political basis, do people really support and like the time that has been wasted via such stunts, as in the end hasn’t enough time already been wasted to change party colours so that those outside of power can argue through volume and specious arguments why it should be them who can deliver this, rather than those who have been more civilised in their politics?

    I hate party-political timewasters because my life is limited on the basis of time and is without such benefits and wealth given via such power!

    Back to the future, save about 12 years. Haven’t we been conned?

    To those who have died you may posthumously look to the belligerents as to an explanation.

    Why is it that around 1970 time a political philosophy was available enough to give an outcome less than the sacrifices today which has recently been secured through extreme unionist parties, aka the DUP< as being really worth it! Many people can see and smell a con and perhaps Paisleyism and his family quest for power proves such a trick on the people! Agitators who now clearly prove that they were in it under a party-political strategy that ensured a running-down and belittling of the then situations, which were then taken up as good to work meant that they had benefited, through media tricks! Digusting!

  • Pete Baker

    “I truly doubt if anyone in Sinn Fein really thought the P&J;powers would be devolved by May -if they did they were very naive.”

    Which, for all the flailing around and pointing to other issues, is, in most part, the point of linking to all the official documents/statements.

    If there is any conning being attempted it’s being attempted by one party only on this particular issue.

  • George

    This all reminds me of the “not a bullet, not an ounze” and the but “the IRA didn’t sign up to the GFA” saga.

    As far as the rest of the world was concerned, decommissioning was part of the bargain.

    Equally, devolving of justice powers is part of this bargain.

    The DUP can whitter on about how this was not part of the deal but if the DUP want this Stormont Tea Party to continue then justice powers will be devolved.

    Otherwise, stasis (if that’s possible for something as stagnant as this parliament) followed by a lingering death is on the horizon.

    Sinn Féin are conning by saying it has to happen by May and the DUP are conning that they are under no obligation to make it happen.

  • Pete Baker


    Regardless of what the rest of the world thinks, and that’s partly why it’s important to look at the actual detail, if you can find any such “obligation” by all means point to it.

  • Mick Fealty


    It is entirely possible that it be done by the end of the year. But even that strange NIO poll shows that Unionist confidence is on the slide since the SAA. The ambiguity surrounding the identity of those who carried out the killing of Paul Quinn does not help either.

    Uncle Tom Cobley and all may want this definitively sorted (which no doubt they do, since no outsider wants to have to get dragged back to the quigmire that pertained before last March), but they left the DUP in possession of the keys to the triple lock.

    When even the leader of the UUs is having second thoughts I am not sure where this political pressure is going to come from.

  • George

    If the DUP’s policy is not to care what the rest of the world thinks its obligations are it then the best of luck to them on that one.

    The IRA was also very proud to say how it didn’t care about what the rest of the world thought about its stance on decommissioning and see where that got them.

    And if you can point to an obligation on the IRA to decommission in the GFA, by all means point to it.

    The DUP has no power to dictate things.

    It is running a glorified county council that dishes out the cash it is given.

    If it wants to see the financial tap turned off and feel the heat of the fabled “black ops” pointed in its direction in the coming years then I for one will be ordering in the popcorn and taking a front row seat to watch the fun.

    I’m sure master tactician Peter Robinson is up to the job.

  • BonarLaw


    perhaps time to get back to the real world?

    I hate to burst your bubble but the rest of the world thinks this place is sorted and couldn’t give a flying f@*k about the transfer of P&J;.

    In those circunstances, without any legal obligation, black ops (what size is your tin foil hat?) aside autum 2008 is even looking unlikely.

  • New Yorker

    If P&J;is devolved, does anybody know how it is expected to improve the actual lives of the citizens? Have the executive or any parties spelled out exactly what changes they propose?

  • George

    the rest of the world also couldn’t give a flying f*ck if the DUP were roasted over a hot spit to force them to finish the job.

    It’s all a question of what the rest of the world (British, Irish and American governments with a sprinking of EU cash) think is the best way forward. How hard to push is the question.

    I suppose we could start in May by ensuring that less than 30 top American Executives arrive for the big investment conference in NI as opposed to the 60 Nigel Dodds is expecting.

    I can hear it now:

    “Invest in Northern Ireland? Well we would love to but obviously the security situation hasn’t bedded down enough as you people can’t even be trusted to run your own justice department.

    Give us a call when you have the issue sorted.”

    I have said before that no one gives a hoot about when exactly justice powers are transferred but transferred they will be. And there is nothing the DUP can do to stop it.

    It may take one year, it may take two, hell it may even take three. It all depends on how much pain the DUP can take, how many investment opportunities are missed before people say enough.

    But in the end it will make no difference as the powers will be devolved.

    I put the “black ops” in inverted commas in case you didn’t notice. I saw it on here earlier this week and liked its ring.

    ding ding

    What I mean is that an awful lot of pressure can be exerted on unionism from an awful lot of places if “the rest of world” wants something to happen. Not least turning down the flow of cash and the investment opportunities.

    Up until now unionism has always buckled in the face of concerted pressure. What makes you think this will be any different?

    I hope you aren’t banking on Jim Allister.

  • Pete Baker


    I don’t do futuring.

    It’s a mug’s game.

    I just try to get as accurate a picture as possible of where we are now.

  • DM

    Pete summed it up best for me when he said there’s only one party attempting any conning. SF know they never received an actual commitment to a date for devolution of P&J;powers – so they’ll make a lot of noise and blow a lot of smoke to distract from this basic fact, and make unionism out to be the bad guys for not living up to commitments that don’t exist. For all the ifs and buts no-one cant point out where any party agreed to a date for devolution of these powers. The DUP are on firm ground here and have nothing to lose with the electorate by sticking to their guns on this one.

    The two Governments can make all the noises they want but in the absence of any actual obligation, they are powerless to do anything, except overrule the democratic process of course. As has already been said, the rest of the world thinks we are all sorted over here; this is just crossing the ts and dotting the is to them.

  • George

    living in the present without taking into account the dynamics of the process we are in is also a mugs game.

    You are merely giving a snapshot in time, a two-dimensional view that, in my opinion, doesn’t take into account the past and future momentum.

    It is as representative of the momentum in this transfer of powers process as the “not a bullet, not an ounce” snapshot was of where the momentum was in the decommissioning process.

    Accurate of where we were then and accurate of the obligations on the IRA at that time but no indicator of where everyone knew we were going.

    The DUP are in a process and have stated they are totally in favour of devolving justice once the “confidence” is there.

    Just as the Provos had to constantly justify holding on to their arms, the DUP will have to justify time and again that Northern Ireland isn’t ready to look after justice.

    The dogs in the street knew the Provo position was untenable in the long term and the dogs in the street know the DUP position is equally untenable.

    Call it futuring if you will.

  • Reader

    George: Just as the Provos had to constantly justify holding on to their arms, the DUP will have to justify time and again that Northern Ireland isn’t ready to look after justice.
    So, the clock is ticking. Based on that precedent the DUP have about 5 years before Republicans can reasonably criticise them. I’m sure it will be sorted out by then

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    There is a second tranche of questions raised by the report that no one has thus far raised: what exactly are these ministries going to scrutinise?

  • Ian


    “I just try to get as accurate a picture as possible of where we are now.”

    Where we are now, is that the DUP are sharing power with the SF [b]whilst the latter are still linked to an IRA Army Council[/b].

    The longer that situation persists, the more and more impatient the DUP grassroots will become (see Dromore by-election results).

    But the DUP can’t drop out of power-sharing precipitately, without looking foolish for jumping in in the first place. If they do, Allister and the ‘Prodiban’ will pounce with Trimble analogies.

    So, how to persuade the nice folks of the IRA Army Council to wind up, so as to ease the DUP’s problems with their grassroots? What possible sweetener could the DUP throw to SF??

    What about an early date for devolution of P&J;powers?

    It’s called [i]realpolitic[/i].

  • Ian

    How’s about this for an example of Sinn Fein co-operation with the police:


    “I intend meeting with the PSNI in the coming days for the purpose of bringing charges of threatening behaviour and intimidation against this individual.”

    Unthinkable a year ago.