“I share his analysis of the St. Andrews agreement.”

Fair Deal’s quote aside, there was another more significant exchange on the devolution of policing and justice powers during Northern Ireland Questions today with NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward talking “about trust and working in the spirit of St Andrews” [That’s really helped by blocking Executive meetings – Ed] Indeed. From Hansard

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): Will the Secretary of State add his voice to those saying that it is deeply unacceptable for Sinn Fein alone to block meetings of the Executive when all the other parties want those meetings to happen and the people of Northern Ireland want decisions made for the good of everybody—in the interests not only of Unionists or nationalists but of the people of Northern Ireland—and that the blame for there being no such meetings clearly lies with Sinn Fein? Does he also agree that it is wrong to continue to assert that Unionism signed up to any kind of date for the devolution of policing and justice, which would involve people who were murdering the police a short time ago being involved in running the police? As the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) pointed out, this matter was not agreed at St. Andrews, and Sinn Fein received no such commitment from Unionists.

Mr. Woodward: It goes without saying that it is essential that government is seen to be stable and functioning in Northern Ireland. The Executive are a tool of the institutions. It is essential to resolve the problems that have arisen, which have resulted in some decisions on the Executive agenda not being agreed, thereby preventing meetings from taking place. The hon. Gentleman will know that one of the critical issues for Sinn Fein rests on agreement about producing a date on which policing and justice will be transferred. I share his analysis of the St. Andrews agreement. However, within that agreement between the British and Irish Governments, it was perfectly clear that it was the view of both that it would be possible, within a timetable of 12 months, to complete that transfer, given confidence in the community. I remind him that we have to be very careful about allowing confidence building to be an excuse for indefinitely delaying the transfer. I know that the leader of his party is working extremely hard in expressing his view that it is an ideal, as well as a manifesto commitment, that his party completes it. However, this is about trust and working in the spirit of St. Andrews, and it remains the case that, if the politicians so choose, a way can be found to resolve the matter and for the Executive to meet. [added emphasis]

Actually, Shaun, the line was – “It is our view that 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″ [added emphasis]. But you’re right about that critical issue..And the question from Mark Durkan which Nigel Dodds referred to

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): Will the Secretary of State help things by injecting a truth check with Sinn Fein that this issue was not nailed down in the St. Andrews agreement in the way that it claims? Will he further help things with a reality check to the Democratic Unionist party that devolution of justice and policing is an imperative, as a legislative assembly is not worthy of the name if it does not take responsibility for criminal law? We can achieve the best meshing of plans, budgets and policies across related services with the devolution of justice and policing. The best way for all parties to unite to confound the dangerous agenda of republican dissidents lies in securing devolution sooner rather than later.

Mr. Woodward: The hon. Gentleman makes a set of extremely telling remarks about the state of the relationships between individuals in the Assembly and the Executive. It is a matter of trust, perhaps more than truth, being established in order to go forward. However, I share his view that a substantial risk to stability in Northern Ireland is caused by the new threat of dissident groups such as the Real IRA and Continuity IRA—not PIRA as in the past—which are exploiting the political vacuum that risks being opened up by a perception that politics is failing in Northern Ireland. It is our view, and I hope that of the House, that what has been demonstrated in Northern Ireland is that politics can triumph over violence and bring peace and prosperity. It is essential that we continue to build that trust so that those who might turn to crime are prevented from doing so.

Continuing on from Nigel Dodds question

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): In endorsing almost everything that the Secretary of State has said, may I ask him to talk immediately to those who have chosen not to take the seats that they could take in this House, and to tell them that if they remove their block on the Executive they are more likely to achieve what everybody wants than if they maintain it?

Mr. Woodward: I constantly have discussions with the leaders of all the political parties, with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, and indeed with those politicians who currently take the view that it is not possible to agree an agenda for the Executive to meet. The hon. Gentleman makes a number of important observations. We have expressed to Sinn Fein our belief that the Executive should meet. I would like to put on record our thanks to the special envoy of the United States, who yesterday met the leaders of all the political parties to discuss with them the issues that are producing a deadlock in the Executive. I thank the special envoy and the President of the United States for their continued involvement in wishing to see the politicians in Northern Ireland complete devolution and ensure that government is stable.

As I mentioned previously

it’s never been just about those “dreary steeples”..

, , , ,

  • DC

    Forwards, not back.

    Thanks.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Pete,

    you seem to have highlighted the wrong bit – perhaps you just misunderstood what Dodsie was being told – see below.

    “However, within that agreement between the British and Irish Governments, it was perfectly clear that it was the view of both that it would be possible, within a timetable of 12 months, to complete that transfer, given confidence in the community. I remind him that we have to be very careful about allowing confidence building to be an excuse for indefinitely delaying the transfer. “

  • Rory

    Actually, Shaun, the line was…

    I do hope that such intimacy of address was based upon an existing personal relationship rather than an attempt, through form of address, to demean the man’s words by demeaning his stature.

  • Unionists though they would probably like to can not dither forever.
    What exactly are they waiting for except trying to be the awkward squad which anyone throughout the world that knows anything about Nothern Ireland already knows is probably their premier raison détre.

  • Steve

    You know as he repeats this arguement so often I am begining to think his effort is not to convince us that he is right but infact to convince himself that he is right

    If a story is told often enough it becomes the truth to the teller

    LOL Codeword : truth

  • Pete Baker

    Rory

    To clarify – I am not, nor have I ever been, Shaun Woodward’s butler. ;o)

    Sammy Mc

    Nope.

    I highlighted the appropriate section of Shaun Woodward’s response.

    Perhaps you misunderstood what was actually said. Try reading the original post again.

    An understanding, or even a “solemn agreement”, between the British and Irish governments does not imply any commitment by any other party – and certainly not when that understanding is dependent on what is to happen on the ground.

    And, as Shaun [sorry Rory] said, “The British Government have kept their word.”

    DC

    Illuminating the details of The Process™ is moving forward. Particularly when that refutes fictitious claims by some of the participants.

  • ??

    I remind him that we have to be very careful about allowing confidence building to be an excuse for indefinitely delaying the transfer…………

    who said anything about indefinitely..just long enough will do.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Pete,

    ” between the British and Irish governments does not imply any commitment by any other party”

    we know there is NO fecking commitment from the DUP thats the point everybody has been telling you – they can have their funny multiple locks but they have to pay the price (as Unionists always do ) for holding up Stormont.

    My friend Shaun and I think that the DUP are using the ‘confidence’ malarkey as a device to hold up progress – do you agree with us?

  • Pete Baker

    It’s the DUP’s call, Sammy Mc.

    That was the “indigenous deal”.

    But it’s good to see that you’ve realised that “there is NO fecking commitment from the DUP” on a date to devolve policing and justice powers.

    Although that’s not “the point everybody has been telling [me]” – “It was Ian junior that said it..”

    “as you well know”

  • ??

    we know there is NO fecking commitment from the DUP thats the point everybody has been telling you -….

    Well thats a little lie, Peter R is on record as stating his desire to devolve P+J, the commitment is there, just not at the demand of Republicans

  • DC

    Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab):

    I remind the House that, operationally, policing is pretty well devolved already, through the Policing Board. However, it is the unfinished business of the settlement last year and it is crucial, especially to the nationalist and republican communities, that the devolution of policing and justice should occur.

    The republicans signed up to an historic move to support policing and the Democratic Unionist party deserves great credit for insisting on that. However, the other side of the bargain was that devolution should take place. The whole House should fully support the Secretary of State and all those involved at Stormont in achieving that as soon as possible.

  • Dewi

    The trouble is is that in the whole history of Unionism calls for progress from the “Brits” just wind them up. It’s nonsense that this has ended up here with no need at all. But now it’s another them and us thing and “victory” and “defeat” linked to the outcome. Daft.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Pete,

    “But it’s good to see that you’ve realised that “there is NO fecking commitment from the DUP” on a date to devolve policing and justice powers. ”

    I’m not arguing in favour of SF’s understanding of the STA – I’m arguing that your multiple posts should focus on the politics of the situation ie Unionists are exercising a veto and the 2 governments want them to get a move on.

    What Durkers says is spot on – although he may wish to draw attention to SF overselling their position his substantive point is that the real issue is the transfer being necessary to secure the peace.

  • Hogan

    It seems to me that the two governments wiped SF’s eye at St Andrews.

    If you play the British Government’s game of ‘hot-housing’, you are eventually going to be burned.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Hogan,

    So according to your view the 2 governments would want Stormo to collapse ? because that is the inevitable outcome unless they push the DUP over the finisihing line.

  • Mick Fealty

    Great stuff. Now we’re starting to get in a little tighter here.

    Note ??’s point about the ‘little lies’ about the DUP’s position. To now, here’s where we are: at St Andrews, the principle of devolving accepted with ‘a suggested timeline’; then in early August this the shape of an agreed deal outlined. Timing is now the only outstanding matter (on P&J;at least).

    Whether this agreement goes ‘under a bus’ or not may be a legitimate concern for citizens and journalists, but clipping to that possible end and working backwards is not only one way of looking at the situation. It only becomes distorting if you refuse to account for what’s already been agreed.

    If SF are determined on forcing ‘Stormo’ off the cliff then there is nothing the two governments can do about it – not least since messing around with commitments made by a Labour Secretary of State on the floor of the House of Commons are a tad more difficult to finesse than ‘fixing’ the Executive minutes in Stormont.

    Margaret Ritchie’s move on CTI showed just how rigid and intractable these St Andrews institutions actually are (sudden image of Scotty down in the engine room shouting ‘She cannae take it Captain!!).