P&J devolution: a DUP lose lose?

Pete has mentioned the proposed budget for the devolution of policing and justice below. Previously the DUP stated that the devolution would depend on adequate community confidence. The nature of the community consultation process the DUP are proposing to undertake is unclear. Robinson’s statement says:

“The DUP manifesto condition requires the existence of community confidence. Our condition is not based on DUP confidence alone it is set more widely than that. This means that the other parties in the Assembly must also be content before we move forward.”

As I have noted previously Robinson seems to be pointedly ignoring the position of the TUV (it being a party with no assembly representation). This has not, however, stopped Jim Allister from denouncing the whole project. He has pointed out that the current deal will only last until 2012 when a new agreement with Sinn Fein would have to be negotiated. He has also questioned the amount of money likely to come from the treasury.

Allister’s objections are of course predictable. The position of the UUP is, however, also extremely lukewarm. As such the DUP may have considerable difficulties in gaining the adequate “confidence:” unless of course such a failure to gain adequate confidence is Robinson’s intention? Whilst that would be at one level cunning and might demonstrate that the DUP were listening to the unionist electorate it would also look as though the DUP were losing community confidence and would probably significantly weaken their position. There is also a danger that if this issue is a live one in the autumn it may have an influence on the very likely Ballymoney by-election and indeed the outcome of that by-election could influence the DUP’s enthusiasm for P&J devolution.

Whatever happens, it looks likely that P&J devolution is going to cause further problems for the DUP and provide further ammunition to their opponents within unionism. Currently it looks worryingly like a lose, lose option. Devolving P&J will antagonise the sort of unionist supporters which the DUP lost to the TUV last time and will make attracting them back even more difficult. Failure to devolve may look like Robinson losing control of events and could strengthen his opponents within unionism at the same time as antagonising Sinn Fein.