First steps towards devolution of policing and justice?

Something of a breakthrough on Policing and Justice, or a crisis with no apparent end? BBC Radio Five Live was first to report at 12.30 today. In effect they have agreed that it would consist of a single ministry chosen under cross community vote in the Assembly (which would thereby exclude DUP and SF) but, as yet, there is nothing further on timetable! The Irish Times speculates that this system is most likely to devolve powers to the Alliance party. But yesterday it was the SDLP who were making a pitch for the job. The UUP is thought to be cool on the matter.Now before, as one excited commenter who emailed me has suggested, people leap to the assumption that this is now all over, the detail, as one DUP insider told Slugger, is going to take a long time to work out. This ‘deal’ , they claim, is the outworking on a speech made by Robinson to the World Bar Conference at the end of June this year.

But the ‘deal’ is neither a deal, nor even an understanding. None of the other parties had been told about it before this morning’s press conference. David Ford when asked about it today, suggested that they would not break with the their position as the putative Opposition. Instead he told Slugger that they would get on with providing a coherent opposition to an incoherent government. In truth it has no appetite for fixing a problem it believes resides solely with the First and Deputy First Minister.

In which case, Alban Maginness pre-emptive strike looks a little, em, pre-emptive:

The DUP have held up devolution of justice long enough. They should not now be allowed to exclude a nationalist party from taking any new ministerial portfolio which may arise and they definitely should not dictate that a future Justice Ministry should be gifted to the Alliance Party. If that is the outcome it will be proof positive about who is running the country and whose party interests are being advantaged.

The Ulster Unionists are thought to be cool on the idea too, and for similar reasons to those laid out by David Ford. In the end the capacity to solve this deal and approve it’s final outline lies with the DUP and Sinn Fein and one willing other. It looks like they may have found that willing victim volunteer in the SDLP.

Although, having taken flak over almost every single micro move or decision on the part of their Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie from the benches of Sinn Fein, the party must be doing so in the realisation that every slight mistake, misspoken word and every crisis in policing will be resolutely laid at their door. And if past experience is anything to go by the claims that they are simply doing the heavy lifting will not go down terribly well when they are getting the blame for every micro crime that happens on their watch.

At base this is a concern about several things. One, the party has been consistently in favour of the devolution Policing and Justice, so it might be viewed as a reversal of that strategy to refuse the opportunity of facilitating it now. Two the wily nilly abandonment of d’Hondt for cross community consent. Once that principle has been accepted it augments the already considerable powers of control invested in the joint office of OFMDFM since Sinn Fein and the DUP alone control that vote in the Assembly. And, three, it is extremely uncomfortable as the only party on the Executive with only one Minister.

Only time will tell whether or not the SDLP will either profit or suffer from it’s pitch for a possible new Minister. But given we know nothing at this stage of any time line, we could be on the edges of our seats waiting for the denouement of this little story for some time to come.

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  • runciter

    One of the less appealing things about Slugger is the tendency for multiple posters to blog about the same topic – thereby fragmenting the discsussion.

    Maybe a rule could be put in place to prevent this?

  • percy

    impossible runciter, we have 3 posts today, a negative one, a neutral one and a positive one.
    These reflect the mindsets of the bloggers here.

    Mick’s post unpicks the issue well, and it seems as if the ministry is a poisoned chalice; so who better than the SDLP to pick it up.

    There’s a great chance, following Ritchie’s resolve on the loyalist funding, for the SDLP to get tough on dissident republicans and loyalist arms, which neither the main parties feel comfortable with doing, for historical reasons.
    But we all want to see happens.

    Now, Dominic Bradley would make an excellent minister. I hope he gets it.

  • runciter

    impossible runciter, we have 3 posts today, a negative one, a neutral one and a positive one.

    How is it impossible?

    Is there some reason why these alternative opinions couldn’t have been submitted as comments rather than separate posts?

  • ggn

    “Dominic Bradley would make an excellent minister. I hope he gets it.”

    I concur.

    Dominic is without a doubt the most militant and without doubt the most capable spokesperson for the Gaelic language community in the assembly.

    It would be interesting to see if he would match his retoric with action, having long castigated others for failing to.

    Feicimid.

  • Mick Fealty

    It is possible, but only if you think that only one definitive statement can be made on each topic or development. Sometimes, if there an exact clash, one of us will withdraw. But it seems to me that each of us have had different things to say.

    In which case there is simply no need for withdrawal. [Gump voice]And that’s all I have to say about that.[/Gump voice]

  • Original Sin

    ill have more respect strangly for the Allience if they do not take the bate and join the new executive, and to be honest the SDLP are in the best position to carry out the role,

    it will be a mixed bag, if they do it well(margaret richie good), then it could be a large step in the SDLP coming back from the brink, and i think SF will be very aware of it, so cue Alex Maskey making a lot of negative comments about who ever gets the role!

    if they do it wrong then it could even damage all the good work that Richie has done over the past year and the good credit she has been getting the SDLP.

    if it is the SDLP to get the position, then who would be selected to get it?? hopefully not Durkan or McDonnell, they do a better role outside of the executive, Attwood, well id hope they have more sense than that, just ant got it with the wide public, Bradley would be very good for it, got irish, got the rep from helping the Quinn Family, would help boost him int he next elections,

    maybe someone new to help boost thier profile, O’loan or McGlone could do with a bit for more the public profile, or maybe Dallet will want to get back int he game,

    could all be very interesting……provided the SDLP take the position

  • Mick Fealty

    ggn,

    Action? With Alex Kane’s piece in mind (ie, pointing out that no action is possible without the say so of SF and the DUP), what actions do you think an SDLP Minister can actually take without the approval of SF? As things stand, after a year of the Chuckle Brothers’ routine, there is very little to show that could not have been achieved by Britain’s direct rulers.

    This reality show is a highly reductive one. CTI was an exception to the rule, simply because OFMDFM could not bring themselves to touch it in advance, nor bring themselves to believe that Margaret Ritchie would take both them and the whole Civil Service on and call their bluff.

    It’s unlikely they’ll be quite so careless in future.

  • ggn

    Mick,

    My point was a side one, it is just something I would be looking out for.

  • cynic

    …. but why would the DUP or UUP support an SDLP candidate?

    Do you really think Robinson will want to face the allegation that he handed justice to a Nationalist?

  • Policing and justic

    If its the SDLP it will be Maginness or Atwood- has to be someone with a legal background.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Mick, as Sluggeronian repition appears to be the order of the day…

    Shockingingly unstatesmanlike jibber-jabber from David Ford – the one opportunity he gets to be REALLY useful and he mysteriously goes all self-righteous.

    Repeatedly poor analyis of this issue by yourself and Peter SF-got-this-badly-wrong-and-I’m-going-to-keep-repeating-it-until-the battery-on-my-computer-dies Baker. Unless of course you believe that the DUP are trying to help SF out of their poor negotiating predicament?

    Good work from Roboo after good pressure from Grizzly and ElGordo.

    Fine day (hopefully) dawning for Non Iron.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy,

    I wouldn’t fancy taking any paper you had editorial control of… 😉 Every time you are asked to point to this ‘poor analysis’, you consistently come up short.

    The poor predicament is mutual assured obstruction. There is clearly a will to do something about it. Although I am not sure how you square that ‘pressure’ with Robbo’s speech to the World Bar Council on 30th June.

    We are witnessing, as John O’Dowd pointed out in the last edition of the Politics show, a play for the optics.

    In which case, all we can do is try to discern what’s real and what’s been set up for our easy consumption.

  • slug

    Alban Maginnis seems a good option. A safe pair of hands in a tough job. Helps the SDLPs Belfast profile.

  • slug

    “…. but why would the DUP or UUP support an SDLP candidate?

    Do you really think Robinson will want to face the allegation that he handed justice to a Nationalist?

    Posted by cynic on Aug 04, 2008 @ 06:02 PM”

    Funnily enough, I would have thought SF would be the party that least wants it to go to the SDLP. The UUP are quoted as saying, effectively, that SDLP are the most obvious next party to give it to. While the DUP would probably prefer it go to the SDLP than to the UUP, and have agreed they will not nominate DUP. So…the SDLP seems the best available option for the DUP.

  • perry patetic

    I think I’ve nearly got the hang of this d’Hondt arithmetic. Am I right that if this ministry had been split into one for policing and another for legal affairs the SDLP would have taken first cut and the DUP the second? Is that a reason SF agreed to keep it in one piece?

    Re Alliance; I think they’d be better pushing their committment to democracy and fairness and their refusal to allow the DUP/SF axis to manipulate them into devaluing the votes of constitutional nationalists rather than overplaying this refusal of an invitation they never actually received. It seems a bit weedy.

  • runciter

    It is possible, but only if you think that only one definitive statement can be made on each topic or development.

    I hadn’t realised that your posts were intended to be ‘definitive statements’.

    But it seems to me that each of us have had different things to say.

    Is there some reason why these things cannot be said in comments rather than separate posts?

    I have already pointed out the downside (ie, the fragmentation of discussions). What is the upside?

  • pfhl

    I am a ballymena man and I would love to see Decky O’Loan in there as I have confidence in his ability.However, I could imagine the outcry from some unionists if Nuala’s husband got in there. I agree with you in I would hate to see Attwood, he can come across very bad and angry and I don’t think Sinn Fein and the DUP would have much trouble in laying the blame at his door if things did go wrong. A character like mcDonnell would be harder to lay the blame at and he would come across much better in public.

    I have no faith in sf and the dup agreeing on everything anytime soon so the sdlp need to be looking at how they can help themselves out in this situation. A minister who will not lay down to sinn fein over dissidents and the quinn killing would get my vote. Equally, it could gain more of the nationalist vote by being tough on loyalist paramilitaries just like Ritchie. More of this could get young nationalists to have another look at their political outlook. I feel at the minute Sinn Fein is seen as the obvious choice by young nationalists because of there constant rhetoric regarding an Ireland of equals and commemerations. This leads to a certain romance in the minds of people in their early twenties, for this great struggle as they hear, who didn’t really witness the troubles. If the SDLP do take the justice ministry and approach it with a no tolerance stance in regards to paramilitaries on both sides. Couple this with other senior members commenting on the constant inaction of sinn fein and hopefully some will recognise the inability of sinn fein to help run a country when it comes to real issues. I lived in the south during the last elections and was shocked by how little sinn fein grasped politics in the south. They were a joke and failed to realise what matters to southern voters because of their preoccupation on the constitutional matter. This distresses me as I have argued with friends who would support sinn fein. One of their arguements is sinn fein is an all ireland party. I hope the sdlp points out sf’s inability in the south and their lack of understanding of what the economy in the south needed. This makes the claim to be an all-ireland party a little harder to swallow. Personally I think a partnership with Fianna Fail would be perfect. Now that would be an all ireland party. A party that gave Ireland statesmen such as Dev, Ahern and Hume over a party who’s only leader of note got tore apart by McDowell last year in a ‘small’ parties debate.

    After my rant, I say put in Decky because they will both hate him as I do not believe he will be quiet. I don’t think he takes into tribal politics either although he has been accussed of this by the DUP locally for quite a while. He responded well to the stabbing in Ballymena a few months back when Daithi mcKay said how bad the situation was getting. He quite rightly condemned the attack while pointing out attacks were actually down and the situation was improving. I think an episode like this shows he is principled and will not throw in lies to suit his position, a quality we should be looking for in our minister for justice. I want him to help show the people of the north how little sf and the dup can agree on in order to show people that a vote for the dup or sf is a waste. They will probably agree on how much they dislike him though. They always seem to agree when it suits the two of them. I would also have confidence in him standing up to paramilitaries on both sides of the divide. I am guessing it would win him quite a few votes in dunclug at the minute.

  • pfhl

    I suppose I take on the point that the minister should have a legal back ground and this would probably point at maginnis as I don’t think attwood is very likeable. All my middle paragraph still stands though. O’Loan for education sometime maybe, I hear he ran a fine math’s department in St. Louis.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    pfhl,

    Opponents (from within and without ) of the DUP would use any nationalsit in the post as a stick to beat them with.

    If the DUP agreed to this then probably would get ( and deserve) something in return. It would be(correctly) disatrous for SF to be seen in the way.

    The simplest answer is the Alliance and the mumbo-jumbo that Ford has come out with surely cannot be sustained or their % rating will be diminsh further – if they cant be arsed to work for the greater good and dont appeal to the tribal instincts of either side then their time is surely up. Ford sounded like a person belatedly asked to a social event he had his heart set on but couldnt accept that he had only made the waiting list.

  • ulsterfan

    Before we decide who gets what and if it a good deal let us have details of the powers to be invested in a Minister. I hope the DUP have watered them down so much that they are meaningless.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Ulsterfan,

    if SF were nowhere near the scene what would your attitude be?

    If the powers are not watered down what % of Unioinists (all shades) do you think will support this (possible )transfer to Stormont?

    Why do you think Robbo appears to be jumping?

  • ulsterfan

    Any word of the army council standing down.
    Surely DUP have asked the Shinners for a deposit at least.
    Gerry is well and truly stuck with a British Administration in NI for at least one more generation.
    Other than ILA what can he ask for? and what can be denied to him by DUP.
    The conflict will soon be over.

  • slug

    pfhl

    Declan O’Loan comes with an excellent academic pedigree (unlike most MLAs). I believe he is a graduate of Imperial College (London) and Cambridge University, two of the UK’s best three universities.

  • ulsterfan

    Sammy
    I don’t think Robinson is jumping.
    He has SF where he wants them to be and has probably been better at negotiations.
    Lets wait and see.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy,

    “Why do you think Robbo appears to be jumping?”

    You a mildly endearing capacity for eliminating any evidence that threatens the integrity of your own arguments. I await a response to my note at 6.21pm.

  • pfhl

    pfhl

    Declan O’Loan comes with an excellent academic pedigree (unlike most MLAs). I believe he is a graduate of Imperial College (London) and Cambridge University, two of the UK’s best three universities.
    Posted by slug on Aug 04, 2008 @ 07:30 PM

    I know he does but I was pointing out it was not a legal background. He was an excellent maths teacher however and I am taking that from many of those who he taught.

  • pfhl

    it was sammy mcnally what done it,

    Under current arrangements, it should fall to the SDLP under d’Hondt. I do not think any more accomadations should be made to save the face of the DUP or SF. If they are not fit for goverment it must be shown sooner rather than later. How long should everybody in NI bow down to these two parties and let them hold up progress? Until they get elected again? Another 4 years of inaction? With such little progress on any issues since st andrews, is this really the coalition that will move the north forward to concentrating on bread and butter issues?

  • slug

    pfhl

    As another Ballymena person, from the unionist community in the north end of the town, I have had some dealings with him and found him helpful. With the boundary changes to North Antrim, which loses Cushendall and the Glens, I suspect O’Loan could use a profile boost to secure his seat in the Assembly. Of the local SDLP, however, there is a lot of respect for McAvoy, but I probably most admired Séan Farren as MLA, a person I thought was thoughtful completely untribal and open minded.

  • slug

    But I have gone off topic, please forgive me.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Mick,

    I have repeated the reason why I think yours and Petes analysis is poor quite a few times but as you ask again so politely…

    both of you concentrated on SF’s ‘poor negotiating’ at the expense of the political reality that the DUP were politcally isolated in their position on Police and Justice – with statments from all the main players to back this up. There is clearly some political risk for the DUP (with Jimbo and the TUV)in the transfer and any movement(which appeared to be sginalled today- hence the jumpimg metaphor) can only be reasonably understood to be as a result of pressure which was obvioulsy coming from Grizzly/Marty and El Gordo/Woodie.

  • Rory

    If, as Mick says, it is all down to “one willing other” in the end then I have to say that I heard David Ford’s avowal of reluctance on Radio 4 earlier in much the same tone that I have often heard prime ministers (and, of late, mayors) proclaim their “absolute confidence” in a minister they were already “minded” to sack.

    I read the sub-text clearly as one indicating to the OFMDFM that David is as Barkis in David Copperfield and above all “Barkis is willing”. The prospect of office will always override the fear that failure in that office might engender. The thinking goes that it is better after all to be a battered divorced wife than never to have been a bride at all. Besides which a decent alimony is practically guaranteed.

  • Pete Baker

    Sammy

    You continue to attempt to ‘interpret’ these apparent progressions in terms of your over-arching narrative of what you think might be happening.

    Fair enough. But it’s not evidence based, nor is it analysis.

    And it’s not what either myself or Mick is doing.

    Here’s a useful reminder of we’re actually doing.

    Rather than futuring, that is.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy, etc.,

    My own criticism has not in the least come down to poor negotiation – that would be a value judgement based on clear information on what the RM had set itself as an objective. Rather my view is that there was substantive misrepresentation of the actuality of what was and what was not negotiated.

    As for ‘jumping’ see my previous ref to Robbo’s speech of 30/06/08…

  • obliterating emulsion

    i think whoever gets this post will be executed within days of taking it, and rightly so.
    o loan would be a good choice

  • Hogan

    Re this nonesense that if the stoop’s take justice it has to be someone with a legal background .i.e. Alec or Alban?

    I must have missed Michael McGimpsey’s brain surgery qualifications??

    Justice could be a perfect fit for O’Loan because he is sharp enough to grasp the detail, and you don’t need a cuddly persona to get away with it, gravitas is the order of the day.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    It must be a measure of how little notice people pay to the Alliance Party that David Ford could issue a statement effectively saying – that although there is a major divisive issue that his party is perfectly positioned to help with, he isn’t going to because he might have to help out in other areas as well – and nobody bats an eyelid. We have all this jabbering from the UU and the SDLP about how dreadful SF and the DUP are trying to sort out what is understanably a very, very important issue for both sides and not a peep out of anyone about David Ford’s appalling statement. As Willows (or is it Willowfield) like to say shame.

  • dub

    Mick,

    Did Robbo’s speech to the World Bar Association occur after or before the Shinners threatened not to nominate Robbo and went to negotiate with El Gordo? Just wondering if you could clear this up for us? Thanks.

  • Essentialist

    Have the combined efforts of the Assembly and Executive machinery and all their supporters solved the parking attendents situation in West Belfast?

    “Optics”, says O’Dowd. P&J;is a mirage. It cannot be grasped, at least not by the punter on the street.

  • perry

    Maybe David Ford’s trying out for the part of pre-St Andrew’s Ian Paisley in this assembly. He’s not only decrying the inability of the parties to execute policy – he’s also attacking the constitutional framework itself as undemocratic and corrupting. Even if he had the MLA’s he’d refuse any seats in the executive (he tells us). Well if it worked for the DUP…

    Who needs TUV when you’ve the Alliance Party?

  • dunreavynomore

    Would the ongoing arrests in sth Armagh and Monaghan(another one this morning) of sinn feiners for questioning about the murder of Paul Quinn have helped convince s.f. that it would be better off abandoning their earlier boasts to their members that Kelly would be the minister and that they would put’manners’ on the p.s.n.i.?

  • Comrade Stalin

    slug:

    Declan O’Loan comes with an excellent academic pedigree (unlike most MLAs). I believe he is a graduate of Imperial College (London) and Cambridge University, two of the UK’s best three universities.

    Please pass me the puke-bucket. I know little about Declan beyond his performance in the chamber and it’s hardly stellar. I get really disturbed when I hear talk that people must be smart or capable because they possess a degree or two. I people with degrees who barely know how to iron a shirt or order a pizza.

    In terms of the Stoop front bench, someone like Margaret Ritchie would be fine for the job, and Alban wouldn’t do too badly either (I’m pretty sure he’s angling for it). However accepting the post would be a strategic disaster for the SDLP. The justice ministry is going to be straitjacketed and controlled by the SF/DUP front, and as soon as it gets off the ground the new minister will have the delightful job of informing the world about the budget cuts and reductions in the number of officers on the streets.

    Sammy:

    The simplest answer is the Alliance and the mumbo-jumbo that Ford has come out with surely cannot be sustained or their % rating will be diminsh further – if they cant be arsed to work for the greater good

    How is the greater good served by bending the knee to a failed administration born out of a backroom sectarian carve-up ? I cannot imagine that Alliance would be found wanting if SF/DUP want to have a serious discussion about how best to take this matter forward. But to write the proposals on the back of a fag packet and drop it outside the front door of Broadcasting House on Ormeau Avenue is hardly a serious or mature approach.

    and dont appeal to the tribal instincts of either side then their time is surely up.

    Yes, I’ve heard that before. I’m getting the impression you haven’t been on this planet for a very long time. Either that, or you don’t read many books about NI history.

    Ford sounded like a person belatedly asked to a social event he had his heart set on but couldnt accept that he had only made the waiting list.

    Given that the Sinn Fein/DUP front deliberately leaked their proposals concerning Alliance and the justice ministry to the press in order to put the feelers out, it’s quite appropriate to kill speculation before it gets out of hand.

    both of you concentrated on SF’s ‘poor negotiating’ at the expense of the political reality that the DUP were politcally isolated in their position on Police and Justice – with statments from all the main players to back this up.

    The idea that the DUP may be politically isolated (and this is far from clear) is irrelevant, and I don’t know why you keep parrotting this rubbish. The DUP are in a position of strength, nobody is in a position to force them to do anything. Gordon Brown is at his most vulnerable and he may need their help in a time of crisis. The Irish government aren’t going to move without the British. The SDLP and UUP are hostile to SF. It is Sinn Fein who are isolated – strategically. They have no cards left to play, other than disbandment of the IRA army council, and the wrecker’s strategy of a walkout, which significant sections of their electorate are unlikely to tolerate.

    There is clearly some political risk for the DUP (with Jimbo and the TUV)

    Given that the TUV don’t have the balls to put their money on the table in Enniskillen, Robinson will hardly be concerning himself.

    [ David Ford .. ] isn’t going to because he might have to help out in other areas as well – and nobody bats an eyelid.

    It’s had coverage on the BBC and the newspapers and radio, but I guess in your wee world that’s nothing.

    [..] SF and the DUP are trying to sort out what is understanably a very, very important issue for both sides and not a peep out of anyone about David Ford’s appalling statement.

    OK, now I know you’re on drugs. SF/DUP are not trying to sort out anything, if they were they would have convened all-party talks or circulated a white paper. No, they’re trying to stitch together another compromised fudge to keep themselves in power that will crash and burn and waste everybody’s time. Alliance are calling them on it. It really is that simple.

  • Comrade Stalin

    perry:

    Even if he had the MLA’s he’d refuse any seats in the executive (he tells us). Well if it worked for the DUP…

    Who needs TUV when you’ve the Alliance Party?

    I don’t really understand you guys. If the Alliance Party are a bunch of evil self-serving wreckers, then why are you getting yourself excited about the fact that they have turned down the seat ?