The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, MP, may or may not actually believe that the NI Executive has become “one of the most successful governments anywhere”.. ANYhoo.. It’s part of the mood music for the 10th anniversary of the 1998 Agreement and, whilst Bill Clinton will be elsewhere, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has decided to hold a gala dinner for former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at Dublin Castle. Maurice Hayes is less impressed with the “rush to memorialise” – “it is still a work in progress” – and he recalls a Brendan Behan tale about Corporation workers “celebrating the seventh birthday of the hole”. He also identifies why the Sinn Féin leadership continue to mis-represent the May ‘target date’ as an enforceable ‘deadline’ when talking up the devolution of policing and justice powers – despite it being clear for some time. From the article
Sinn Fein needs these powers to be devolved, not only because they represent the last piece of the Patten jigsaw, but because it was a main element in the bill of sale on which they persuaded republicans to buy into support for policing.
For Patten, it was a defining function of government, and a manifest of the commitment of parties to defend the institutions and the common good, that they should exercise these powers. For Sinn Fein and republicans, it is symbolically important that these powers should be exercised by local politicians responsible to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Without that, the Sinn Fein leadership would not have got agreement, and failure to deliver will seriously damage their credibility.
Which may be the reason for those predicted “major problems ahead..” Adds A further thought. With conditions on the ground being so important to building confidence ahead of devolving those powers.. does this help or hinder?