In the Irish Times Frank Millar has some further information on what the Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, proposes to do about the devolution of policing and justice powers – after the NI Executive is “shown” draft legislation, as mentioned here. Including this interesting suggestion.
Speaking after talks with British prime minister Gordon Brown at Downing Street yesterday, Mr Robinson warned that substantial funding issues a shortfall which the DUP leader estimates at around £600 million have not yet been resolved by Mr Brown and the British treasury. While seemingly confident that Mr Brown will not let the devolution project falter on grounds of cost, Mr Robinson also stressed that a financial resolution under the current comprehensive spending review would only cover a period of one year.
Looking ahead to the possible election of a Conservative government committed to heavy public spending cuts next year, Mr Robinson told The Irish Times that certain accounting and other powers may have to be left with the treasury in the event of the transfer of policing and justice powers to avoid a recurring financial crisis.
Speaking in Dublin on Monday, Mr Robinson signalled his confidence in the arrangements already in place for the appointment of a policing and justice minister, widely expected to be Alliance Party leader David Ford.
Mr Robinson insisted last night, however, that community confidence isnt just a matter for decision by me or by the DUP. Acknowledging that nationalist and republican opinion was clearly in favour of the move, Mr Robinson said the other parties have to display equal confidence.
This reference to the Ulster Unionists in particular is a clear sign that Mr Robinson already under pressure due to last months European election result does not intend to find himself outflanked by Jim Allisters Traditional Unionist Voice on one side and the Ulster Unionists on the other.
Once he is satisfied with the financial arrangements to underpin a new policing and justice ministry, Mr Robinson says he will seek discussions on the confidence issue with the leaders of the other pro-Union parties, Sir Reg and PUP leader Dawn Purvis, while conducting an internal DUP consultation at the same time.
Let’s see what happens.