Policing and Justice to be devolved to smaller parties?

Interesting that, if his interview on the Politics Show is anything to go by, Mark Durkan shares the view of some of our commenters that the DUP will likely do a deal before the end of the year. But there was an intriguing piece in the Irish Times on Saturday which hints that a compromise might involve two of the smaller parties:

Asked about Mr Robinson’s declared enthusiasm to involve the other smaller Assembly parties, Mr McGuinness agreed, while adding: “They must also acknowledge this is a serious business.” This apparent swipe at the rival SDLP came amid speculation that Sinn Féin might oppose any attempt to revive an earlier DUP proposal that could see policing and justice powers vested in a new ministry to be shared initially by the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists.

That could work. Although any future Justice Minister may wonder just what his department is for, other than ensuring that the outside of the court houses are painted and kept up to date. And his Policing Ministerial ‘Twin’ may find him/herself fighting a losing battle to wrest some oversight and investigative powers from the Policing Board.

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  • Sir Basil Rosemary

    If this ministry is created then along with our first and deputy first ministries/ministers we should have 12 departments and 13 senior ministers on the executive.

    The mathematics of d’Hondt has me baffled but if 108/12 = 9 and 108/13 = a bit more than 8 should the addition of a new ministry not provide the 9 “United Community” people with a brief?

    Perhaps someone from the Alliance Party could help.

  • There is no legal provision for the new departments to be ‘devolved’ to the SDLP and the UUP rather than to any other parties. I doubt if any such provision could actually be written into legislation.

    However, if the 11th and 12th departments were filled by a continuation of the D’Hondt mechanism used to fill the first 10, then the result would be:

    First choice (police?) to the SDLP, who were in 11th place last time around, but second choice would go to the DUP, who were in theoretical 12th place!

    The UUP would, if D’Hondt was followed, have less right to one of these departments than either the DUP or SF and Alliance (joint second grabs).

    There is no justification whatsoever, or democratic or procedural grounds for the UUP to get either department. They got their fair share with Empey and McGimpsey.

  • Self-correction:

    SF and Alliance would not actually have joint second grabs at the second of the two new departments.

    Although D’Hondt gives them both a score of 7 at this stage (SF: 28 seats divided by (no. of ministers plus 1) = 7. Alliance: 7 seats divided by (no. of ministers plus 1) = 7), there is another provision which says that: “Where the figures given by the formula for two or more political parties are equal, each of those figures shall be recalculated with S being equal to the number of first preference votes cast for the party at the last general election of members of the Assembly.

    And here SF wins easily, with more than four times the Alliance first-preference vote score. But its only theoretical anyway, because the DUP would have first grabs at the Department.

  • Half Pint

    Regardless of who gets the post/s of p and j minister/s Martin will have a veto over the appointment of judges.

  • Sir Basil Rosemary

    Thank-you Mr Horseman.

    Can parties from coalitions for the purposes of seat allocation?

    The UUP seemed to think they could when they proposed their PUP partnership.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think this is a good opportunity to set the d’Hondt rules aside and come up with another way of selecting the minister, and, indeed, deciding how the Department will operate.

    One idea I would be in favour of would be significantly increasing the powers of the justice committee in the assembly and giving it the authority to overrule the justice minister. There then lies the matter of the Police Board, and the fact that it would become essentially redundant. Arguably, it has been something of a disappointment.

    Speaking purely on my own behalf, I don’t see it as particularly likely that the Alliance Party will be taking any seats in the executive without significant reform in the way the whole caboodle is established. Who in their right mind would volunteer for the kind of back-handed treatment the SDLP and UUP receive on behalf of the DUP and SF ?

  • ulsterfan


    Peter will tell Martin that he can not appoint any members of the judiciary until Peter approves.
    In other words each has a veto and the only way this can work is to get agreement.

  • Comrade Stalin

    ulsterfan, thing is, if the Shinners get their act together they can play that game as well. It’s a shame they lack sufficient political acumen to make it work.

  • Half Pint

    Just like the victims’ commissioner/s.

    Spend 30 years killing judges and then given veto over their appointments – disgusting.