As I mentioned yesterday, before someone at the BBC intervened, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers are in Downing St today to hear the offer from Gordon Brown on future funding of devolved policing and justice. The BBC reports that Peter Robinson wants potential future government agreement too. The Conservatives have responded – “We cannot give any guarantees on any spending programmes.” And there’s this from the BBC report
However the SDLP’s justice spokesman, Alban Maginness, said the problem was not one of finance, but was due to the failure of the DUP and Sinn Fein “to reach any agreement on any major issue”. “They are a dysfunctional office in a dysfunctional Executive and they are not delivering to the people of Northern Ireland” he said.
Alban Maginness said the first and deputy first ministers were “completely and utterly polarised” over the devolution deal and he blamed the “flawed” St Andrews agreement.
“St Andrews was effectively an illusion as far as the transfer of policing and justice was concerned and the British Government, and indeed the Irish government, did everything possible to get the DUP over the line and that included misrepresentations in relation to the transfer of policing and justice” he said.
So what next?
Update Come back next week.
Adds And some comments from OFMDFM
Speaking afterwards, both ministers said some progress had been made. “I think everybody recognises that it is important that we get these matters right,” Mr Robinson said. “No-one should be rushing towards the devolution of policing and justice in circumstances that leave us without the necessary funding.”
However, Mr McGuinness said his party wanted a deal concluded as soon as possible because a general election could leave them negotiating with a different party. “I don’t know what the next government is going to be,” he said. “Is it going to be a Labour government? Is it going to be a Conservative government? “What we have to do as politicians is conclude a deal now.”