“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..

  • John O’Connell

    Policing and justice powers may be very relevant in the months ahead.

    With Paisley gone there will be enormous pressure on the press to raise the past scandal that he, Paisley, has been part of, i.e. David Ervine’s wallpaper remarks. Republicans may feel that the pressure is then off them to maintain Gerry Adams as a similar god-like figure, and – not needing to show the same loyalty any more – they may begin to release information that takes away from his divine image. Paisley and Adams feed off each other. Paisley going will enable their enemies to attack both theses demagogues and this may mean that Adams has to go too.

    I predict that there will be strong pressure on Adams to go in May too. He is after all a spent force so far as the South is concerned, and a weary potential liability in Northern terms. Remember “I am not and never have been an IRA member.” That’s a risky approach.

    I guess that the press will move into overdrive in their pursuit of both these characters in the next sixty days.

    Policing will need to be very fine-tuned at that stage.

  • Billy


    Of course the Sinn Fein leadership realise that. The comments they are making are intended to put pressure on Unionists by portraying them as an obstacle to progress.

    This strategy will prove especially effective in the US.

    As you are very fond of pointing out, Unionists can prevent these powers being devolved ad infinitem under the current arrangements. I don’t think that anyone is seriously arguing otherwise (including Sinn Fein).

    However, it is clear that the UK, RoI and USA govts want to see these powers devolved sooner rather than later. Unionism has little or no leverage here.

    The govts cannot force Unionists to devolve P&J;powers but they can certainly apply an awful lot of financial pressure behind the scenes.

    It clearly won’t happen in May. However, I personally expect to see some ambiguous statement about the IRA army council later this year and P&J;powers being devolved before the year end.

  • Turgon

    “It clearly won’t happen in May. However, I personally expect to see some ambiguous statement about the IRA army council later this year and P&J;powers being devolved before the year end.”

    Yes I agree entirely.

  • Pete Baker


    “I don’t think that anyone is seriously arguing otherwise (including Sinn Fein).”

    You must have missed all their previous statements.

    And you appear to miss the point that the talk of ‘deadlines’, that don’t exist, ‘control’, that won’t happen, and previously ‘commitments’, that weren’t given, is not for external consumption.

    It’s for an internal party audience.

  • “an obstacle to progress.”

    Billy, as has been pointed out in Pete’s article, the PRM is portraying itself as such an obstacle. Do you suppose that the current leadership doesn’t want these powers devolved?

    It would also appear the Chris and his associates haven’t been properly briefed by the PRM leadership.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    The Taoiseach has his own country to worry about, he should keep his nose out of our affairs, it has damn all to do with him.

  • cut the bull

    The problem is that most people in Republican/Nationalist working class communities have no time what so ever for the PSNI.

    No matter what appears in the Andytown News or what statements of wishful thinking appear from Sinn Féin, This is the case and it has as much to do with a lack of dialogue within those communities as it has to do with traditional fears and anomositiy towards policing.

    It appears that the we’ll make the decisions and let you know whats good for you mentality has well and truely backfired.

  • 9 County Ulster is my homeland

    Its time for the Taoiseach to start taking a more active role in the 6 counties before he decides to retire.

  • harry

    what do the sinn fein leadership tell those grass root cumann members that were sold the policing idea on the basis that P&J;would be devolved by may 08?

    how long will they swallow the sinn fein leadership’s stunts at appearing republican i.e the vol. farrell commemoration.

    (even that was subject to conditions of the unionists)

  • Bonarlaw


    actually subjectto the veto of the unionists.

    Much like P&J;devolution.