Northern Ireland First Minister, DUP leader Peter Robinson, has responded to Sinn Féin’s apparent threat, via TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, to take the ball away – notwithstanding Mary Lou McDonald’s clarification..
When Ministers were appointed they made public and legally-binding pledges which are not being fulfilled. This cannot continue. A meeting of the Executive has been scheduled for 18th September. If this meeting were not to take place it is self-evident that there would be serious consequences for the good government of Northern Ireland and indeed potentially for those who refuse to fulfil their legal obligations.
Let me make it clear the DUP will not respond to threats such as that which Sinn Fein has made. If we were to do so on this issue we would be vulnerable to having the republican threat of bringing the institutions down used again and again in order that we would comply with other Sinn Fein demands. Nor indeed will we make political concessions in order to encourage any party to do that which it pledged to do and carry out duties which it is legally required to perform.
And he provides some clarification on the details of what agreements there actually are.
Let me deal with the inaccurate propaganda which is being disseminated by republicans about policing and justice. The St Andrews Agreement between the Government and the government of the Republic of Ireland neither bound nor required the DUP to accept the devolution of policing and justice nor did it impose any timetable for such devolution. Moreover even the hopes of those two governments were set within the context of the legal requirement known as the triple-lock which the DUP wisely negotiated before St Andrews.
More detail of that clarification
Rather than accepting republican claims about what was agreed at St Andrews let me quote from the document published by the Government.
Discussions on the devolution of policing and justice have progressed well in the Preparation for Government Committee. The Governments have requested the parties to continue these discussions so as to agree the necessary administrative arrangements to create a new policing and justice department. It is our view (i.e. The view of the two governments) that the implementation of the agreement published today should be sufficient to build the community confidence necessary for the Assembly to request the devolution of criminal justice and policing from the British Government by May 2008.
The reference to policing and justice in the above statement was aspirational and without any binding timeframe. However, so that the matter of where the DUP stood on this issue is clear let me also quote from Dr Paisleys statement agreed by the whole DUP negotiating team and made at St Andrews as soon as the two governments published their agreement.
There is no definitive date for the devolution of policing and justice powers. We remain of the unshakable view that those powers can only be transferred whenever there is the required community confidence.
It is clear that Sinn Fein has always known that no agreement was reached and that the DUP were working on the basis of the statement issued by the party at St Andrews. Moreover the reference in the St Andrews agreement by the two governments expressly acknowledges that any devolution of policing and justice was conditional to the Assembly asking for the functions to be devolved this is a direct reference to the triple-lock veto.