Dissident threat influencing devolution of P&J…

WITHOUT any surprise or fanfare, the talks on devolving policing and justice have ended without agreement. It kinda leaves you wondering why Brown got so involved at this stage, though I suppose he must have had reasons.

It’s been known for some time that a sound financial package (which everyone wants) and ‘community confidence’ (which is whatever you want it to be) were two of the DUP’s conditions for accepting the devolution of P&J. Now there are a few others being mentioned from an 8-page dossier/shopping list, which probably explains why the DUP and SF are negotiating the transfer of powers separately. It might be helpful to spell out the ones we’re aware of.

According to Mark Devenport, the Three ‘R’s are;
– Retaining the full time police reserve
– Reviewing the withdrawal of personal protection weapons (PPWs)
– Replacing the Parades Commission, which may build confidence amongst unionists, according to Mark’s report.

On the first two of those three, this report in today’s Tele can only bolster the DUP’s arguments. According to FoI responses, 2,030 former army and police officers hold PPW licences and 172 guns have been taken back this year when three-year licences came up for renewal. None were taken back in either 2006 or 2007 and four were removed last year. So the DUP sees a recent big increase in removing PPWs at a time of growing threat to those holding them.

With exquisite timing, former Police Federation chairman, ex-RUC officer, Policing Board member and DUP Assemblyman Jimmy Spratt has teamed up with current Federation chairman Terry Spence to argue that “the threat against on-duty and off-duty officers had greatly increased in recent months and warned that the phasing out of the full-time police reserve is going to place even more pressure on frontline officers, potentially leading to a breach of their health and safety”.

We’re also reminded that: “Over the past year 30 PSNI officers have been so concerned about their safety that they have been forced to move home.
420 viable devices have been found in 750 security alerts across Northern Ireland in the last two years.”

While the Federation – essentially the PSNI’s union – obviously has a selfish and vested interest in fighting cutbacks, the statements make clear the political battleground. The recent bomb finds and murders indicate a high level of threat to the police, and that makes security cuts unpalatable to the DUP. At the same time, Sinn Fein won’t accept any rolling back of implementing the Patten recommendations. But Spratt asks the question; if the police can’t cope and the threat escalates, will the Chief Constable – even an advocate of community policing – be forced to recall the military for police support? That is a line SF does not want to see crossed, as it plays into the hands of their militant dissident opponents.

Ironically, the one thing that would strengthen the DUP’s position the most, and weaken SF’s more, would be a successful dissident attack on the security forces – such as a mortar attack on an army base. Mainstream republicans will argue that it is in the interests of ‘securocrats’ to play up the dissident threat, but despite the dismissive language about ‘micro-groups’ SF seem positively obsessed about dissidents’ growing ability to influence events.

  • Billy

    The DUP are living in a dreamworld.

    Personally, I don’t care about the personal weapons.

    The abolishing of the full-time reserve is an accepted Patten recommendation. Even as a moderate Nationalist, it is not acceptable for the UK govt to renege on this due to “loyalist” blackmail.

    The abolishing of the Parades Comission is nothing to do with P&J. It is simply and clearly a case of the DUP trying to blackmail the UK govt about a completely unrelated issue.

    IMO, if the devolution of P&J powers doesn’t happen because of these ludicrous demands, then Sinn Fein should either walk away or block any and all DUP motions and make the assembly unworkable (or even more unworkable).

    The DUP are widely seen in the UK (except for their own FP backwoodsmen) as flat earthers with extremly little support beyond parts of NI.

    It is clear that this is a pure attempt at blackmail by the DUP. The UK govt and SF/SDLP must not accept it.

    If this has consequences for the assembly, it’s clear for all to see where the blame lies.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Can you renege on someone else’s recommendation? And aren’t the DUP just copying what SF used to do?

  • Boring de Brits

    No offence to the thread but doesn’t it all sound so petty: the SF/DUP gangsters turned beggars and the dissidents who have managed to stiff one cop in ten years. Most London gangs/pit bull terriers are more dangerous.

  • Thereyouarenow

    Get on with it Gordon. Put it up to them. If you cannot face down these spoofers then what chance have you of tackling the challenges ahead.

  • igor

    “Sinn Fein should …..block any and all DUP motions”

    Like they effectively have been doing? The reality is that SF have a big shopping list – Maze Shrine, no 11+, P&J powers, etc, etc, etc. The DUPs are now countering it with one of their own and SF are screaming that they will take the ball away.

    So what? Walk out. Where will it get you? Eventually you have to talk to the Prods not your supporters in the USA and RoI (who may not be there next week anyway). I know that’s a shocking prospect. And next time around the ringmaster in the talks is likely to be Conservatives.

    So by all means walk away. Lets return to Direct British rule. Sell that to your community.


    “the DUP are widely seen in the UK ……..as flat earthers with extremly little support beyond parts of NI.”

    Again, so what. What do you think SF are seen as? Murderers? Organised criminals?

    “the UK govt and SF/SDLP must not accept it”

    Ah yes. “Something must be done” because Baby cannot get its way. The tantrum will be awful to behold.

    So what will baby do?

    We will force an election! Well actually no, you can’t unless the Prods participate and there’s no point in participating unless what we are voting for is clear.

    We will return to violence! Well, you can do that with all the guns hidden in the thatch that you didn’t hand in. But that will show up your true nature and strengthen the position of the Prods. Also there seems precious little support for that in your own community never mind anywhere else and economically its the last thing that the RoI wants.

    Joint rule anyone? Great. A conservative government will really want that one. As will a new RoI Government that is stony broke and vulnerable.Joint rule might come with a price tag. By the way where is all that money they promised for infrastructure?

    Sulk and let the dissidents make the violence while we say sagely “Told you so”? Possibly the most viable startegy but it has flaws. The entire tradition of the movement is the biggest enemy to be destroyed first are former members of the movement who might be rivals. Will RIRA sit and let SF cash in the political pay while they do the heavy lifting? will they not want to eliminate and usurp their rivals?

    Yes doing real politics is hard…. as SF are just starting to find out

  • James Wilby
  • Ooops


    Gibralter was a mistake. Sorry!

    Sounds like Gerry A.

    Well said thereyouare. Give the West Brits the boot.

  • igor

    ” Get on with it Gordon. Put it up to them. ”

    You clearly don’t understand Gordon. He’s not capable of putting it up to anyone. Cowardice is the mantra

    And again, poor little SF is unable to stand up to the wicked wicked Prods who have asked for concessions. Its awful you know that they have started to turn our own negotiating tactics back on us.

  • jone

    When was the last time a PPW was fired in order to ward off a terrorist attack?

  • fin

    Igor, I could be wrong as I am neither a unionist or a ‘Prod’

    However, I find it difficult to believe that any noticable percentage of the 1,000,000 unionists in NI feel strongly on the Parades Commission, the PSNI Reserve, or ex-cops keeping weapons.

    Yes, same as their nationalist neighbours they do want a peaceful marching season, they do want proper policing and they don’t want any more murders from either side.

    When Ian Og read through his little list of victories on H&Ms;, rate rebates for the OO, funding for Ulster-Scots, etc, I can’t believe 1,000,000 unionists whooped for joy, just as I don’t think Robbo has the thoughts and hopes of 1,000,000 unionists behind him with this shopping list.

    While hardliners on here gloat at what a great job the DUP are doing in preventing anything been achieved while waving an OO wishlist around, I get the feeling that the majority of unionists are getting a bit tired of it all and would actually like to see some cooperation and focus on the important things.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I understood that the DUP wanted to increase Unionist confidence – so not sure how giving control over parades to Stormo (as per Ashdown’s Report) and therefore to SF will do that and surely TUV Jimbo will simply use that as another stick to beat them with.

    re. The Reserve – perhaps this is an arguement inserted to scupper the transfer but as it is based on shortage of Police resources then a solution to increase resources to the full time force gets round this.

    Perhaps the DUP, having lost a quarter of their vote since signing up to the STA realise they have made a terrible mistake and favour a collapse of Stormo and an immediate election in which they will cease to be the largest party – but the most likely scenario still is that the DUP will fall into line like the UUP before them and swallow their GFA/STA medicine.

  • jone

    Has somebody paid Getty Images for that image that is clearly burned off the BBC site?

  • aquifer

    ‘Community Confidence’ – The DUP cannot hold their rotten sack of proddie fundamentalists together?

    Lets have an election then.

    Let the ‘people of ulster’ decide whether they want to participate in a british conservative landslide or lose their votes to a rabble of conflicted wannabees.

  • “increase resources to the full time force”

    Sammy, it looks like those resources are going to be cut even further. The most recent stats went up a few days ago but, for reasons best known to themselves, politicians, the MSM and Slugger bloggers are ignoring them.

    The so called front line is made up mainly of Constables and Full Time Reservists. There are about 6600 in the Patten ‘quota’ yet only about 5900 on the books. That’s a deficit of 700 or more than 10% and it doesn’t factor in those on sick leave. Just imagine the capability of the PSNI if they cut an additional 500/1000 frontline officers.

    Kevin McAuley, an independent member of Moyle DPP, blogged some of the local bad news on NALIL last November and one of the local PSNI chiefs whinged about the need for ‘corporacy’.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    that does not bode well – but the DUP arguement over the police reserve is based on money/resources and therfore if a solution to the resources issue is available it can be based on the full time force rather than the reserve and avoid any going back on Patten.

    Straying off topic, perhaps something Turgon might like to consider if he’s about the place – has the rise of the TUV damaged Unionism’s ability to get a better deal from the British (or blackmail in some peoples parlance) by weakening the main negotiator’s (ie the DUP’s) hand? It does seem to look like it.

  • percy

    seems to me DUP will go for devolution, but they want a huge shopping list as bonus,
    Will SF give in to that is the question?

  • igor

    “I find it difficult to believe that any noticable percentage of the 1,000,000 unionists in NI feel strongly on the Parades Commission, the PSNI Reserve, or ex-cops keeping weapons.”

    I am a Unionist and a Prod and I totally agree.Nor do we want Ulster Scots which is a joke.

    I am not a Catholic or Nationalist and I also suspect that the vast majority of Nationalists / Republicans similarly don’t give a stuff about the Maze Shrine or the 11+ (most parents having voted for some form of selection).

    Similarly while I think that many wish to see the Irish Language respected very few have bothered to learn it and wont want to see millions spent on an Irish Language Act at the expense of care for our old people (for example).

    Still, when did it matter what the pople in either community actually wanted? What we get is some eidgit wrapped in a flag every 4 years and are urged to vote for our Tribe, then just pay the expenses, shut up and do what we are told until we are needed again.

  • igor

    “Will SF give in to that is the question?”

    They don’t have a choice. It’s called politics and their position grows weaker week by week.

  • Sean

    Igor: They don’t have a choice. It’s called politics and their position grows weaker week by week

    Not being on the ground in nIreland I can’t say I have a great ear for it but judging by the blogs I read you are greatly overstating the case. With no realistic alternative to strong republican politics their voters may be unhappy but have no where else to go. the alternative is the croppie lay down party or the wing nuts of socialism party

    Unionism on the other hand seems to be a Humpty Dumpty and all the queens horses and all the queens men couldn’t put Humpty together again

  • Sammy, none of the political parties appear to have commented on or noted the 10%+ deficit. You’ll also see that the statisticians have included student numbers in the full time strength!!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    This sounds like a case for….Pete Baker to get his teeth into.

  • Brian MacAodh

    I wonder how long it will take before it will be possible for a (strong) party to emerge that doesn’t represent either tribe? How long will it take until people get tired of the same old song and dance?

  • igor

    “their voters may be unhappy but have nowhere else to go”

    They can just stay at home and that’s what’s worrying them

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    igor, I hope you are not trying to suggest that if there was an imminent election that SF’s position would be anything like as bad as that of the DUP who would have their arses kicked all over the place by Jimbo and the TUV – not to mention Wee Reggie jumping up and down and claiming he’s anti-agreement as well.

  • Peter


    I disagree that the vast majority have no concern over the eleven plus, surely a child’s education is one of the more important matters the tools on the hill argue about. Pity for the children, they have failed to govern.

    I also believe in this case, the DUP have made Sinn Fein look to be much more reasonable. Calling for the scrapping of the parades commision smells of the TUV looking over pete’s shoulder. It really is just a case of trying to out-allister allister to make sure the Punt can still run for both seats and win. We know he doesn’t want to give up them pay checks. What impact does the parades commision have on P&J other than parading adding heavily to its expenses? Who votes for this man? He has as much class as a certain Mr Nesbitt (the glasgow one). It was funny to hear him try to lecture Marty on how to behave. Martina Purdy must have had a wry smile as she listened. What scares unionists about the devolution of policing and justice? We know it is not the cost, the requests made have shown us that. Do they feel northern Ireland as a state can not govern itself? Why is policing and justice more important to those who object than health or education?

  • igor


    When Parents were surveyed by the Department the majority wanted some form of selection. This didnt fit in with the Department’s zealots or the fomer ministers party policy so they just ignored them.

    And why do youa ssume they are scared. That is a complete misreading of the situation. There are two camps:-

    The first genuinely distrust SF whom they see as the political wing of murderers and crooks. SF may say they have a mandate but that doesn’t alter that perception among that group

    The second are politicians. They see that SF is weak and need devolution so there’s a price to be paid. That’s realpolitik.

    And don’t go all self righteous on me. SF played this game with the Brits and Irish for years and wrung concession after concession out of them. Along the way they destroyed Trimble and severely weakened the UUP.

    The DUPs are not stupid. They will not play the role of Gerry’s chicken waiting to have its neck wrung. Nor do they have to. They have a veto on something the Shinners want – and want very very badly. Its pay day – the only question is the price.

  • ulsterfan

    When Peter is making out his list I hope he has not omitted PMS.
    Unionists are not particularly keen on devolution and are happy to leave this with Westminster which is the sovereign Parliament.
    If P&J are to be transferred our Government and SF will have to pay a large price.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    the thing you are missing here is that failure to play ball with SF will be extremely damaging to DUP – (as a result of the STA) there now has to be an election if Stormo collapses which will almost certainly see SF as the main party and see greater co-operation between the papal state to the south and the Englezes – a fear of which, both Robbo and Deputy Dodsy admit coerced/forced/encouraged them to get into bed with SF.

    Time will tell, but it does rather look like that the DUP have mistimed their run on the Police transfer and are now cut off at the pass from retreating to their familiar anti-agreement hideout by the massing of TUV converts.