“a bright and formidable lawyer and is well respected among his peers.”

At the end of yesterday’s video round-up of reaction to the new Process™ I suggested that where we are now is actually back to St Andrews. The difference being that now, rather than claiming that unenforceable deadlines exist, Sinn Féin have agreed to work towards a time when conditions on the ground are suitable for the devolution of policing and justice powers – with “no date actually agreed by the politicians”. And, whilst other reports indicate that John Larkin has also carried out legal work for Sinn Féin, it’s with St Andrews in mind that I read with interest Gerry Moriarty’s brief background on the proposed nominee for Northern Ireland Attorney General.

Prof Larkin, who is in his mid-40s, is from Glenavy in Co Antrim, a Catholic who was educated at the Christian Brothers grammar school on the Glen Road in nationalist west Belfast. Viewed as politically moderate, he represented the DUP in several cases over the past decade and more, according to party sources. He was their legal adviser during the St Andrews talks in Scotland that resulted in the agreement that was the foundation for the current powersharing administration.

Also worth mentioning is the sunset clause [deadline May 2012] on those temporary provisions for electing a Minister for Justice by a “majority of Assembly members, present and voting, including a majority of designated nationalists and a majority of designated unionists.” That seems designed to counter the charge that “no nationalist need apply” “at all times”. Although any replacement arrangements will require agreement between the two majority parties in both designations.

And of that Department of Justice..

Previously noted was Sinn Féin’s u-turn on their preferred model of “two Ministers acting equally and jointly”.

On the name of the department both the DUP and Sinn Féin appear to have retreated to “the NIO’s default position”. From the Minutes of Evidence of the report from the Assembly and Executive Review Committee [12 February 2008]

2713. The Chairperson: The DUP is in favour of the Department being called the “Department of Home Affairs”, and the UUP is in favour of either “Department of Home Affairs” or “Department of Justice”. The SDLP is in favour of “Department of Policing and Justice” or “Department of Justice and Policing”, and Sinn Féin is in favour of “Department for Justice and Policing”. How do we propose to unravel that?

2714. The Committee Clerk: You can use the tried-and-trusted form of words that there were diverse opinions and the Committee was unable to reach a consensus on that for the purposes of the report. The original reason that the Committee considered the title of the Department was to assist the NIO in the development of the legislation so that it could use a generic title for the transfer of all of the functions that will be required. Potentially, that means that that detail will have to be ironed out prior to the conclusion of the legislation and the devolution settlement.

2715. The Chairperson: What is the current default in the legislation?

2716. The Committee Clerk: The NIO shows it in shorthand as “D o J”.

2717. Mr McFarland: The NIO is using “Department of Justice”.

2718. The Chairperson: That is the NIO’s default position, but it has not indicated that it will impose a name. Members, I can only suggest that we reflect on our respective positions, and perhaps consult with our parties. In the meantime, I ask the Clerk to draft the usual formula of words into the report to reflect the position of each of the parties that there is not a consensus in the Committee on the name of the new Department.

  • Dec

    I don’t have an Irish News Subscription so I can’t get past the headline on this story from 2005.

  • Dec
  • fair_deal

    I don’t think it is wise for people to be trying to ‘claim’ the possible AG.

  • observer

    I have to say the DUP have outfoxed SF on this one. Larkin is obviously of a unionist mindset,(former Alliance party member and adviser to the DUP at St Andrew’s) irrespective of his religious upbringing. SF could not be seen to object to him (as a Catholic) being appointed AG. If SF had objected, the DUP would quite simply have said that its SF that didn’t want a Catholic about the place.

  • Dec

    I don’t think it is wise for people to be trying to ‘claim’ the possible AG.

    No, but it was funny especially Carson’s Cat, who initially described Mr Larkin’s appt as AG as a victory for the DUP only to, after more details on Mr Larkin’s background were unveiled, revise his verdict to a ‘score-draw’.

  • bollix

    John Larkin is a very bright and well respected barrister. I have no doubt that he will regard his primary duty as being to the rule of law, rather than being a lawyer of any one “side”. I am equally sure that, unlike the previous AG for England and Wales Lord Goldsmith, he will tell his clients what the law is, rather than what the clients want to hear.
    He is also a decent and generous man at a personal level.

  • Dec

    For the record, I posted my 12.28 before I read Observer’s carefully researched contribution.

  • edward

    SF is not a religous based organization, unlike the dupers, SF has never expressed support for or against anyone based on their Catholicism.

    It seem only onionists percieve religion as important to ones position

  • ggn


    If I have learned anything from reading Slugger etc. is that Relgion is very important to Unionists, more than Catholics can really comprehend I feel.

    Just think how often leading unionist politicans refer to the ‘Protestant Commnunity’ rather than the Unionist community.

    Very interesting.

  • Huge Organ

    Slightly off topic, but can anyone tell me what effect, if any, the devoloution of Policing & Justice will have to 50:50 recruitment.

    Just wondering.

  • observer

    According to Gerry Adams no later than October 3rd: “there are clearly elements of the DUP who remain bigots; who really don’t want to have a Catholic about the place.”

    This where the DUP outfoxed him. Larkin, as I said earlier, may be a Catholic, but he has a unionist mindset. Had SF objected to him becoming AG, the DUP would have thrown Adams’ words back at him.

  • mick cooper

    What would ones Religion have to do with the post of AG, surely it’s a post were Justice is all important and on the point there is no better man than John Larkin from West Belfast.

  • mick cooper

    There’s history of Larkins in Irish politics, The Shinners may know more than you give them credit for, observer .

  • George

    Can you really have an AG who is of a “unionist mindset”. After all, he is there to give a legal opinion, not a political one.

  • observer

    And the Lord Chief Justice is OK as he’s a Catholic from Lurgan whose original family home is within spitting of the SF office there? Is that not also a post where justice is all important?

    There are such things as Catholic unionists, you know, and while SF talk about outreach to unionists and the need to convert at least 10-15% of those to accept the idea of a united Ireland, the converse is also true to ensure the maintenance of the union with Britain. While Terence O’Neill recognised that fact many years ago, many unionists did not. Perhaps the penny has now dropped.

  • mick cooper

    observer you seem obsessed with religion, what does the Lord Chief Justice religion have to do with his position ? I would suggest nothing, wouldn’t you ?

  • Peter Brown

    The LCJ’s religion is important only because there is an unwritten rule that LCJ & High Court appointments were turn about at least NIJAC came along….allegedly

  • observer

    Merely pointing out that being Catholic doesn’t prevent people also being unionists. A reality SF and others find hard to accept, and which some, at least, in the DUP seem to be coming around to.

  • New Yorker


    Aren’t SF unionists now? They de facto support partition, hold six county ministerial positions, take pound sterling from Stormont and Westminister and do everything but fly the Union Jack.

  • mick cooper


    I find it odd that you point out Catholics but not those from another faith, do you have issues with the one true faith?

    Attorney General John Larkin from Nationalist West Belfast sounds much better than Attorney General John Larkin the Catholic, don’t you think ?

  • observer

    “Attorney General John Larkin from Nationalist West Belfast sounds much better than Attorney General John Larkin the Catholic, don’t you think ?” – only for those who wish to conceal or misrepresent the reality that his politics are neither nationalist or republican, but unionist.

  • mick cooper

    Who cares what his politics are as with his religion they are irrelevant to the post of Attorney General.

    Mr John Larkin Attorney General from Nationalist West Belfast has a nice ring to it….

    I like it 🙂

  • sean

    Yes who really cares what Larkin religion or politics is ,the guy is not infallible, he is just a ordinary guy like the rest of us ,only difference being that he will be paid a huge immoral salary for doing very little. Again like the majority of people, he will take into consideration any bias ,political beliefs, perversions ,etc when having to make any dodgy or controversial decisions.

  • George

    pardon my ignorance about this man but on what do you ground this argument that Mr Larkin is a unionist?

    I hope not solely on the basis that he was a solicitor advising a unionist client?

  • ggn


    I think the assumption is based on the fact that he was a fromer member of the Alliance Party, generally understood to be a unionist party despite their protestations.

  • x


    Who cares what his religious opinion is – unless you don’t believe a catholic nationalist should be AG

    Is this what you are saying, the only reason larkin is to be welcomed as AG is because he really isn’t “one of them”?

  • observer

    X – one thing which the said Mr Larkin most certainly cannot be accused of is being a catholic nationalist: his own personal record of dabbling in politics demonstrates that he is catholic unionist.

  • Granni Trixie

    Observer:I do not know exactly what to read into Mr Larkin’s early support for the Alliance party, but I do know that, in practice, Alliance attracts a more diverse group of people than fit within the category ‘unionist’.