Devolution of policing and justice: where were we again?

Devolution of politicking policing with and justice is all the rage again. At least on the editorial and op ed pages of the Belfast Telegraph. The position of the parties appears to be this: one party (Sinn Fein) wants it now. Another party (the SDLP) apparently wants it now, but seems capable of little other than pouring scorn on the first party (Sinn Fein) for not being able to get it now. Two other parties (the UUP and the DUP) say they want it, but like St Augustine and the virtuous life, not just yet.

The tiny Alliance (the ones likely to bag to new job since no one else can be tolerated to hold it, by the semi detached polit bureau at least), are ready to go once they’re happy the transfer of powers from various departmental pots come into one, won’t break their political bank in the first year of operation. One rising party (TUV) is agin it, until the whole system of mandatory coalition is lifted from the oppressed people of Ulster. Martin McGuiness says it doesn’t matter what the UUP says, only their polit bureau partners in OFMdFM count. And the NIO (which has no local democratic mandate of its own) agrees. Fionnuala O’Connor restates the Sinn Fein deputy First Minister’s belief that:

Sinn Féin went into powersharing with Ian Paisley on the understanding that taking the IRA out of commission would enable sharing power over policing. As acknowledged in an editorial yesterday by the Belfast Telegraph, the voice of middle unionist Ulster, which commended the argument for devolution by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as “compelling”, Sinn Féin kept its side of the bargain.

It’s understood that Mr McGuinness still keeps in touch with his old ‘chuckling buddy’ Dr Paisley. But the truth is that neither of them actually did anything in that first legislative year they had together to enact any new law. And under the St Andrews’ Agreement, total agreement is required between the factions of OFMdFM before anything can be done. Their party’s continue to do nothing in lieu of the DUP signing an Augustinian compact to be ‘good’ and agree to draw down a second tranche of powers before any of the first tranche have been substantially used.

The DUP insists that filling the deficit in public confidence is the necessary pre-requisite for dropping down powers into a new department that has no direct NIO-managed shadow presence. Whilst some point to the convincing fist made by the dFM after the Massereene Barracks attack earlier in the year; there is nevertheless a lag in general public confidence in a Legislative Assembly that in two and a half years has failed to legislate anything substantially new.

By the same token the Sinn Fein leadership will not allow their dFM to get on with taking up what responsibilities he already has without a cast iron (ie public) guarantee from the DUP that the devolution of policing and justice will take place in a given space of time. Like the Penrose Stairs we have the illusion of progress when in actual fact what we are witnessing here is an endlessly circular motion with neither showing the breadth vision or political courage to break out of it.

The Belfast Telegraph takes the view that:

It would now make sense for him [the new Chief Constable] to be able to work with those same politicians in a framework devised at local level. Nationalist and unionist politicians serve on the Policing Board; they sit on lower level district policing partnerships; it is high time they took executive decisions about policing and justice.

Which fine as far as it goes. But it also ignores the rather obese elephant in the room of an Executive that, despite its high levels of economic inactivity, has managed to cause widespread chaos in schools, and been hauled before a judicial review alongside one its number, the Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie.

Confidence is a two way street. If Northern Ireland’s politicians want to claim public confidence, perhaps it is about time they did something (anything?) to earn it!! And perhaps the media might quit feather bedding them and let them hear the honest truth for once.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    The Punt played a blinder on this, as some of us have droned on to the rest of you for some time. I really do shudder to thinks the absolute heems [sp?] Reg would have made of this, if fate had left the attempted stitching-up to him. But the end game now hoves into view: plainly rolling over SF on their absolute refusal to consider them being debarred from the holding the P&J post was swift work, but the next stage in the Punt’s triumph is going to be the junking of Ruane *and* her disastrous mishandling of 11+. So there you have the fiendish Unionist scheme in all its awful majesty: P&J transferred on Unionist terms, and as per Unionist timetabling; SF nixed from holding the job; and, even to get to that point of humiliation, Ruane ditched and selection retained. Watch, wait and see.

  • fair_deal

    ” Another party (the SDLP) apparently wants it now, but seems capable of little other than pouring scorn on the first party (Sinn Fein) for not being able to get it now.”

    They have went a bit further than that Attwood said it wouldn’t be acceptable if the DUP got anything for agreeing to it.

  • fair_deal

    “Martin McGuiness says it doesn’t matter what the UUP says, only their polit bureau partners in OFMdFM count.”

    True in terms of Assembly mathematics but not in terms of the political realities.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    With Marty and Robbo having reached an agreement last November to avoid the collapse of Stormo (see the BT for Marty’s list of items progressed since then) the DUP have been sharpening their definition of what Unionist ‘confidence’ might actually translate into and that now seems to comprise the classic straw man of money from the British and the potentially trickier and more recent requirement – the support of the UUP.

    If either of these requirements for confidence are not met then presumably Robbo intends to hide his party’s failure/inability/lack of desire to deliver behind these external factors and hunker down for the ensuing political warfare which may well result in the collapse of Stormo.

    Presuming the British government (Labour party) agree to stump up the cash, something they have been well rehearsed in doing in matters relating to the Peace/Political process, we may then be facing the crazy situation where the previous pro-agreement UUP will have become anti-agreement in their first main policy shift since their unlikely liaison with the Tories. As highlighted by Woodie (SOS), the delay in implementing the transfer will be a boost to the Repubican dissers and if the obvious resonance with early 19th century Tory Orange card playing is thrown into the equation then it might be reasonable to presume that no one in PoshBoyDC’s party understands anything concerning Irish history or foreign policy.

    But, perhaps the Tories are not as irresponsible as may appear, and if Marty’s account of his meeting in his office* with Owen Patterson is to be believed, there was “considerable dismay” at the behaviour of Wee Reggie and his cronies on the subject of the transfer and as the BT is now reporting the unlikely liaison between Wee Reggie and PoshBoyDC may be showing signs of strain. Absolutely spiffing stuff.

    *You have to just love the image of a Tory SOS in waiting, actually having to do his waiting outside Marty’s office before the former head of the insurgents beckoned him enter for both of them to discuss what to do with the backwoodsmen in the UU. lol or what?

  • Guest

    “o there you have the fiendish Unionist scheme in all its awful majesty: P&J transferred on Unionist terms, and as per Unionist timetabling”

    Can you explain what unionists gain from this and what Republicans lose?

    “SF nixed from holding the job; and, even to get to that point of humiliation, Ruane ditched and selection retained. Watch, wait and see. “LTU.

    Can you explain what unionists gain from this and what Republicans lose?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Sammy, there’s no better “LOL”ling than hearing you slabber on. I’ll give you this: you’re making up new guff, for now, which for you represents considerable progress. But you’re still making stuff up. And you’ve still to treat us all to an explanation for how, as one of dozens of gems you’ve already shared with us, Sinn Five aren’t out of office, why Sinn Five didn’t/couldn’t pull the Executive down, and why P&J hasn’t long ago been transferred as per SF’s wishlist, each and every one of which you jibbered-jabbered would already have happened last year. Go on, increase your BS flux capacitor and dilate on *that*.

    Guest: if you can’t see what the political edge is, don’t worry, SF can,a nd all too painfully. Then again, you may well be one of these rare birds who had convinced htemselves, despote veery Unionist saying otherwise, that Unionists have some basic objection to seeing P&J transferred on their terms. Pace 11+, I can see it’s slow speaking time: SF tried to do something (get rid of selection) Unionists were and are against; in trying to do this, this made an astonisgingly bad job of it; they haven’t managed to do it; and, in short order, their farcical effort will join the border campaign of the 50s in the Republican memory hole.

  • Guest

    “if you can’t see what the political edge is, don’t worry, SF can,a nd all too painfully. Then again, you may well be one of these rare birds who had convinced htemselves, despote veery Unionist saying otherwise, that Unionists have some basic objection to seeing P&J transferred on their terms.”LTu.

    My point exactly.The unionist plan to hurt sinn Fein is as failed a dynamic as Republican stalling on decommisioning;but so be it.Once again,what do Unionists gain?Or this a silly Mclaughlin hurt the other moment?

    “Pace 11+, I can see it’s slow speaking time: SF tried to do something (get rid of selection) Unionists were and are against; in trying to do this, this made an astonisgingly bad job of it; they haven’t managed to do it; and, in short order, their farcical effort will join the border campaign of the 50s in the Republican memory hole.”-LTU.

    Same logic as above.Everything can be premanently blocked by both sides but where does that get unionists where it does not leave republiacnism?

  • Mick Fealty

    Gently LTU, keep it civil.

    Sammy,

    A sharpening of that definition is surely to be desired, since it was always too nebulous to be of much public use.

    The money thing is real enough, and it’s more than the DUP that’s worried about that (given how the PSNI have been overspending their budgets – albeit in the face of substantial social and political unrest).

    The relationship between Reg and Dave will be the subject of another post on another day. But I would see a distance there for sure.

    As for your assertion there’s been an agreement between Martin and Peter, well yes, maybe. I prefer to see the detail, before making your customary ‘leaps of faith’.

    If it is as watertight as you seem to think, why is the Sinn Fein leadership conducting it ongoing civil campaign of long slow asphyxiation within OFMdFM?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    I truly don’t understand what you don’t understand. Let’s move away from NI to *anywhere else*. Party Purple believes in policy A, Party Indigo believes in policy B; like everything else in life, policies A & B, though largely antagonistic, are not utterly opposed at every point; Party Purple pursues policy A, Party Indigo pursues policy B; they each do so with varying degrees of skill, and varying impacts upon the *total* feasible voter bloc that might rally to them; one policy is attained, the other isn’t. Are you actually telling me that you can’t see that this is the basic stuff of democratic, constitutional politics the world over? And that it’s happening in NI? And that, as democratic, constitutional politicians go, you’d rather find yourself in the situation the DUP have created for themselves rather than the fix SF have landed themselves in? Please note, for what little it’s worth, I’m not commenting upon the actual merit of any the stances involved (eg selection vs comprehension, one model for the political administration of criminal justice as compared to another &C), I’m merely pointing out that what we, most of us, what to achieved here in NI was the game of civil politics. And as currently played, the Punt’s well ahead on points.

    It’s to go off as a slight tangent, but the game is going to remain pretty much this way more or less forever, because of the confessional/civic divide until nationalism, and its wider communual underpinning do what happens everywhere else and grow a right wing. A ‘right of centre’ nationalist/catholic/parse-it-as-you-will party would obviously be liable to have a different take on issues like selection. Thus, to take that example, the result we’re getting, and are going to go on getting on education (selection retained) wouldn’t represent a ‘community defeat’, but instead, because one intra-community faction could at least claim to have laid hands upon the result *it* wanted, be seen for what it is, a political result. An outgrowth of the civic politics we’re all now committed to. And of course, while the monolithic left-liberal nature of ‘nationalism’ proves itself to be absolutely incapable of attracting “other” votes, you’d have thought pure prudence alone would incline at least one nationalist free thinbker to experiment and see what 2nd or 3rd order transfers a blue-cornered broadly nationalist party would bring home. Oh well, their loss.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    That last comment was addressed to ‘Guest’ btw. As for ‘engaging’ with Sammy: with what exactly? the stuff he made up ages ago, or the stuff he’s making up now?

  • LTU:

    Party Purple pursues policy A, Party Indigo pursues policy B; … one policy is attained, the other isn’t.

    But that’s not what has happened with (to take the obvious example) education. SF wants to abolish selection, DUP doesn’t. SF abolishes the 11+ but fails to put anything else in its place. Instead of policy A or policy B, we have policy Z – which nobody wants. And yet you proclaim this as a Unionist victory?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    “As for your assertion there’s been an agreement between Martin and Peter, well yes, maybe. I prefer to see the detail, before making your customary ‘leaps of faith’.”

    You are unlikley to see an actual document for obvious reasons. We can only go on progress since November* to reach what I would call a reasonable working assumption/judgement and you would prefer to call a leap of faith.

    re. Money – of course it is important but is an obvious straw man arguement by the DUP to fill the gap left by their non definition of Unionist ‘confidence’. The British will as always supply the necessaries, or they will probably be looking at vastly increased disser campaign just when they should be sending troops to Afghanistan.

    *Marty outlined this in the BT yesterday

  • Mick Fealty

    obvious reasons?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    But Andrew, in politics, ‘victories’ habitually aren’t total. Positing the absence of such hardly denies my basic point. The broad Unionist/pro-selection (and I for one regret the de facto conflation of what should be two distinct positions) goal was to retain selection, and that’s, self-evidently been done.

    As for Sammy, do tell us one day about the ‘progress’ made since November 2007. As you seemingly don’t remember, but enough of us the rest of us do, you slabbered, ad naus., that P&J would be transferred in 2008, otherwise SF would depart the executive and ‘pull the institutions down’. As the rest of us have noticed, even if you haven’t, they didn’t – because they couldn’t – and since you’re so prone to making stuff up historically, you do see why we all enjoy laughing quite so much, even if your newer jibber-jabber does have a remarkably samey-quality.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    re. document. Are you being disingenuous?

    Can you not just imagine TUV Jimbo’s waving the piece of paper entitled “Police and Justice in our time” and shouting Lundy/Chamberlain at Robbo.

    Are you suggesting that the progress made on the transfer as outlined in detail in the BT yesterday since SF dropped their threat to Stormo was just a coincidence?

  • Mick Fealty

    Just keep the tin foil hat handy Sammy… 😉

  • danielmoran

    It’s my contention that the reason the media [broadcast and print] let this assembly and excuse for a government away with murder is because, to bring them down to eath and ridicule them when deserved, is because the tame media here has bought into the whole ‘our wee country nonsense, and to ridicule the first minister would burst that particular balloon. This, as you suggest is what they need, since they are two and a half years in and have achieved precisely nothing. get rid of this circus now and spend the millinns on something useful. this colony [n.ireland is NOT a country and stormont is NOT a government. END OF STORY.

  • LTU:

    There hasn’t even been a partial victory. In fact, the mess that education is in is a defeat for both sides.

    Yes, this is possible.

  • Zoon

    Point of clarification (this is all the Assembly is good for it seems) from Laughing (Tory) Unionist and could someone tell be what legislation they have passed? How did the FM play a blinder: what did he do?
    As the Alliance chap said on BBC1 a few months back on the politics show or whatever you call the Sunday morning thing, get on with it! Either that or let’s revert back to direct rule …

  • Zoon

    Have to admit little amuses me and i chucked at the scoring out of Mick’s into. Cynical but true one suggests.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    re. “Are you suggesting that the progress made on the transfer as outlined in detail in the BT yesterday since SF dropped their threat to Stormo was just a coincidence?

    Shall I take your answer as No ?

  • Mick Fealty

    Sceptical, not cynical Zoon.

    My answer is another question Sammy: ie, what progress?

  • Zoon

    I guess sceptical is being more optimistic than sceptical but let’s not split hairs on synonyms.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    so if questions are all the rage to answering questions try a few.

    a) Did you not read what Marty listed as progress in the BT as mentioned by me about 3 times above?

    b) If you have read it – are you waiting for me to stick it on Slugger so you can say ‘thats not progress’?

    If the answer to a) is in the affrimative – then I will cut and paste it from the BT.

    If the answer to b) is in the affrimative then you will need to refure Marty’s contention.

  • Zoon

    I meant optimistic but to hell with it: you know what i mean or else you wouldn’t of bean pedantic.

  • Driftwood

    Apologies if this is a repost, and slightly off tangent, but some points are relevant.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-democracy-will-not-bring-freedom-1775229.html

    How many Northern Ireland Protestants vote for Sinn Fein?

  • Driftwood

    Another relevant quote

    Instead, the British sloshed millions of dollars at the mass murderers who had originally helped to destroy the place so that they would fight on our side.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Driftwood,

    Jeez, you sound as if you have only just discovered what most nationalists are taught on their mother’s knee.

    By the way, apart from making a shockingly false allegation regarding my spelling (which is shockingly bad) on the other thread I havent heard your take on Marty and Owen have a chinwag about the awkard/recalcitrant feckers in the UUP.

    And your Trumption theory has taken a bit of a bashing with our Scottish cousins letting that Libyan out – and we can look forward soon(recalcitrant feckers in the UUP permitting?) to indpendent Irish decisions made in Norn Iron.

    ps Do you reckon Marty kept Owen waiting in the corridor before he let him into the office and perhaps welcomed him to our country.

  • abu nicola

    making a shockingly false allegation regarding my spelling (which is shockingly bad) on the other thread

    Yep, you were falsely accused, Sammy. It was me who misspelled meagre. In my defense (sic), Driftwood, I did spell it correctly at first, but my Yahoo North American auto spell checker told me I spelled it wrong. Bah!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    abu nicola,

    I fear the boy Drifters may not be well, misapportioning blame is one thing, but he has also been criticising the Tories and he has even been casting cistercians/aspersions on British foreign policy in the last few offerings… and most shockingly of all he has not used the term ‘Trumpton’ for at least 2 posts.

  • How many Northern Ireland Protestants vote for Sinn Fein?

    That’s another one of my bugbears. Elections are a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for democracy. Another necessary condition (often overlooked) is the existence of politicians willing to govern in the interest of society at large, rather than the subset who voted for them. We certainly don’t have the latter in NI.

  • Driftwood

    Sammy etc
    Cameron wasn’t too happy with the Scottish judgement. I suspect he, Patterson and most of the NI public are unconcerned with possible devolution of policing and justice powers. Like everything at Stormont, it’s a sideshow.
    Everything of importance to people here is decided at Westminster.
    Stormont doesn’t actually DO anything. It gives the illusion of power to people much the same way as the puppet Afghan government will do. Washington will de facto decide what goes there.
    Just as London does here.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Driftwood,

    so you dont think deciding, for example, who stays in prison, what exams kids take, whether abortion is legal and where hospitals and schools and roads are built are not important?

  • Driftwood

    Sammy
    Exams: People here take GCSE’s and GCE’s, including the new A* grade at GCE next year. This was (and is) decided at Westminster, or rather the JCQ. Civils Servants decide on schools and hospitals, based on strict criteria, ministers here simply rubber stamp them. Abortion will not be legalised by any party here because all local parties are run by ill educated prats. Westminster could bring in a law, but it’s not an issue for them.
    IF you and others don’t want British rule then decide that NI will run on its own tax revenue. Forego the annual 7 billion quid subvention and lets see how we all get along.

  • Driftwood

    To elaborate on the point that Fisk is making in another context. Stormont is just a patchwork ethnic quilt. London (with an advisory role for Dublin) will call the shots. It’s their money paying for the Punch and Judy show.
    On that note, has Trumpton (happy now Sammy)gone in to recess for a while? And how would anyone know anyway?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Driftwood,

    I’m afraid your civil servants arguement does not hold as that applies to ALL government, nor does your abortion arguement “ill educated prats” as stupidity is not the preserve of any single administration. In relation to education, there is presumably nothing to stop Norn Iron adopting what ever exams its likes e.g the leaving certificate of ROI/Scotland.

    So apart from roads, education, prisons, police, health what power has Stormo actually got? You have your heart set on Trumptonising Stormo and as a result you appear to be ignoring the actual facts.

  • Driftwood

    He who pays the piper calls the tune….

    The piper is the mainland taxpayer, if you don’t want their money just say so, and see where it lands us.

    For starters, could you summarise all the legislation brought forth by out little (108 member!)assembly in the past year. Try and keep it to less than 250 words, difficult I know but do your best.

  • Guest

    LTU,

    Excuses for the late reply.

    I find it amusing that you had to take us away to “anywhere else” to build your A can never be anything of B theory.Is it possibily because you understand that Northern Ireland is not like anywhere else?

    But to the point:You said that sinn fein understand the politicall edge “all too painfully”.As andrew as already pointed out A and B have both been discarded in place of C or Z or who gives a toss?But reality aside, and off we go to “anywhere else”, do you seriously believe that this is good for the union?

  • Guest

    “iF you and others don’t want British rule then decide that NI will run on its own tax revenue. Forego the annual 7 billion quid subvention and lets see how we all get along. “-Driftwood.

    I think you’ll find that it is unionists who must “decide”.It’s called the principle of consent and unionists have long seen it as their holy grail.Among other things such as having a government in Stormont,I may add.

    If that money could be funded by EU and US would you be for full home rule along Scottish lines,

  • USA

    A situation where schools develop their own entrance exams is a step backward, it is not a victory for unionism or a defeat for nationalism. It is a lose / lose situation for all concerned, especially for the students.
    The DUP failed the lower income unionist kids by opposing this legislative change.
    Devolution of P+J will take place soon, perhaps 6 to 9 months. I would also be of the view that a deal was done by McGuinness and Robinson at the time of the Euro elections. If devolution takes any longer then SF will have to re-examine their position in the Assembly.