AER Committee’s first report published

The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive Review Committee’s first report – on the arrangements for the devolution of policing and justice matters – is now available online. The report contains recommendations relating only to Category 1 issues. Category 2 and category 3 issues will, presumably, require further reports of their own.. The Irish Times safely predicted that the NI Assembly would accept the report.

However, committee chairman Jimmy Spratt said that the report addressed some but not all of the outstanding issues before a request to Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward is made for the transfer of policing and justice powers. He confirmed that the new department would be known as the department of justice and would be in addition to the existing 11 departments which make up the Executive. He could give the Assembly no definite target date for the planned devolution.

The number of departments might come back into play later.. For now, I’d recommend looking through Appendix 5 – the correspondence to, and from, OFMDFM. In particular a letter from the deputy First Minister, dated 13th October, on Sinn Féin headed paper, and a subsequent letter from OFMDFM dated 12th December expanding on that ‘public consultation’ [below the fold]. Meanwhile 4 of the Assembly parties sent representatives along to the Stormont Live studio yesterday. First up are the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr and the SDLP’s Alex Atwood. Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd and the Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry are also below the fold.

Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd and the Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry on the committee’s report.

And those letters I mentioned above.

This from the deputy First Minister, dated 13th October, on Sinn Féin headed paper.

The timeframe for the devolution of policing and justice powers was set out in the St Andrews Agreement. The St Andrews Agreement was the basis for the restoration of the Assembly and the formation of the Executive. Refusal to agree the transfer of policing and justice powers means that this Institution is in default of the St Andrews Agreement.

I believe that the Committee should apply itself to addressing all of these issues as a matter of urgency.

Local democratic accountability is crucial to delivering effective civic policing. This includes community safety, protection for the elderly and other vulnerable groups, general anti-social activity, the corrosive impact of ongoing MI5 activities on community confidence in policing and all-Ireland policing arrangements.

It just requires agreement between the political parties, deputy First Minister.. as you well know..

And from OFMDFM dated 12th December

The first matter was the reference to ‘public consultation’ in the fifth group of actions set out in the paper, which we included with our letter to you dated 18 November. This may be seen as part of a wider process of building confidence across the community, which began with our public statements immediately after meeting the Committee on 18 November. In those statements we set out our intention to secure the confidence of the community necessary for the devolution of policing and justice. We will continue to express our commitment to the transfer of these powers and proactively engage with stakeholders. We welcome views from any organisation and from members of the public generally. This is an integral part of building public confidence, and we will remain open to views from any quarter at all stages of this process. That will include, of course, any views which the Committee itself might wish to put forward.

[As long as they’re not ‘stupid’ views.. – Ed]