“It might drift for a few months..”

The Irish Times report quotes a statement from the Taoiseach’s office as saying, in reference to Sinn Fein’s demand for the devolving policing and justice powers, “that the time is right for the parties to move forward and take the final steps towards full devolution and full normality, as set out in the St Andrews Agreement.” But, in a recent debate, the Taoiseach also told the Dáil

“The way for us all to move forward is to try to ensure we get district policing and devolution of policing. I am fully committed to trying to do that. I have raised this with the British Prime Minister and Dr. Paisley and have discussed it with Deputy Ó Caoláin’s colleagues. We will do everything we can to achieve that as soon as possible. It might drift for a few months but, hopefully, we will be able to make progress on it.”

Of course, as most should be aware by now, it’s entirely dependent on agreement between the parties in the Assembly. Perhaps somebody should tell Gerry..Speaking of the Sinn Féin leader’s statement

Firstly on the idea that May 2008 is in some way an enforceable deadline..

Coming so soon after his appearance at an event with a, presumably, Provisional IRA ‘colour party’, talking about “control” of policing, whether or not that is couched in “democratic” references, is hardly conducive to building confidence and trust.

And with the expected next leader of the DUP pointing to certain organisational structures..

As to why the Sinn Féin leadership keep presenting May 2008 as an enforceable deadline.

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.”

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.”

Interestingly, SF member Chris Gaskin tells us

At the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis last week the delegates overwhelmingly supported my own Cumann’s motion on the issue.

And, as he relates, that motion states..

“This Ard Fheis mandates the Ard Chomhairle to set out, in public, the party’s position in relation to our involvement in the current policing structures should the British Government fail to devolve policing and justice powers by the 8th May 2008.”

We’ll have to wait to see what the SF leadership has to say at that point..

But, of course, it’s not within the gift of the “British Government”..

Not that the Sinn Fein leadership don’t realise that..