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 NIOs 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.