Brown largesse not be enough for the transfer of J&P

If Ed Curran is right, stuffing the Executive’s faces with gold will not be enough. In an important article that goes against the grain of all the external pressure to devolve justice and policing, the former Belfast Telegraph editor defends Peter Robinson’s tardiness, newly expressed in an interview with Noel McAdam, recorded after the Brown financial package was offered. Ed now seems to be writing off the Executive as a lame duck, with its “ mind numbing inertia,” and yet he appears to support even more inertia with his counsel for further delay. (Peter, incidentally, defies William Hague’s pledge to get rid of double jobbing but then, he has a full Parliament’s grace before a Conservative government could enact it).

Ed writes:

The Executive is a lame duck administration because its coalition format means decisiveness is a dirty word. Peter Robinson recognised this in his recent comments calling for a weighted majority voting system at Stormont to replace the current mind-numbing inertia.

To Ed’s the case for more patience, I make four points. He says:

“.. the transfer of policing and justice to Northern Ireland from Westminster represents a massive dismantlement of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland link. ”

Yes, it is a significant move, but this is an overstatement.

1. Devolved J&P would operate in a framework of UK law which is nigh impossible to dismantle, much of which is reserved to Westminster. It operates under a UK Supreme Court in which NI is represented. The appointments of Lord Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal are signed off by the Prime Minster (although whether after consultation or not, isn’t clear). Previous versions to have signing off by FMDFM have been removed. .

2.Much of the actual power is either exercised operationally independently – policing by a Policing Board which we’re familiar with; and judicial appointments by an independent board, with provisions for appeals to an ombudsman.

3. Most of these powers were long held in pre-devolution Scotland which has always had a separate legal system. You can argue whether that strengthens or weakens the Union either way.

4 Patience perhaps, Ed, but for how long? What has to change? A full generation of SF/IRA to fade away as N Dodds once suggested? And what about the benefits of binding in nationalists to an accountable J&P system to change the background in which terrorism can still flourish? Why is the DUP not making the case for this to its electorate – and more widely?

Ed adds

I think someone in the media could do an enormous service if they were to conduct a simple opinion poll on this issue and confirm how people – particularly in the unionist community – feel. Failing that, I would hope the DUP are doing their own sampling.

Clearly the DUP are doing their own sampling as Peter makes clear, but that’s hardly a substitute for an open poll. Judging from the Robinson interview, the party will remain in purdah for some time. Why not a poll commissioned by Ed’s own organ?

  • jone

    Bog-standard unionist integrationism which has been the Tele’s default outlook since the year dot.

    And Ed should know as well as anyone the evils of NI opinion polls – how many pre election splashes did he oversee which massively underestimated the level of support for the DUP and SF?

  • igor

    Wont we get one of those opinion poll thingys by next May at the latest?

  • igor

    I just had a blinding vision of a pro-devolution TV advert. Just like one of those for the RSPCA or NSPCC

    “You too can make a difference.

    Take the example of poor little Davy. His Party almost abandoned by the electorate. Doomed to forever walk the corridors of power but never be in any of the offices off them. Left snuffling on the sidelines while all the bigger political animals gorge themselves on policies and committees.

    But together we can change all that. Just one little vote for devolution of P&J and you can give Davy

    * a brand new shiny office
    * a junior minister to play with
    * his own Attorney General
    * a whole box of polices to help pass his days

    So vote today for devolution and give Davy a new home and purpose in life”

    [Cut to closing shot of him bounding happily up the drive at Stormont]

    Given present attitudes it looks like the best shot for this

  • elvis parker

    Brian not sure how you get ‘Peter, incidentally, defies William Hague’s pledge to get rid of double jobbing but then, he has a full Parliament’s grace before a Conservative government could enact it).’
    How can Robbo defy it precisely? The Tories come to power, ask Assembly to resolve the matter, they fail. Westminster legislates, Robbo has to stand down from Westminster in 2011 or not restand for Assembly.
    I suspect the article was written prior to Hague’s speech LOL

  • granni trixie

    Igor:At least David Ford can hold his head up for not standing idly by. He showed leadership and lead a party with integrity through the worst of times. Ask yourself – how has Alliance survived? Must be doing something right and meeting a need?

    The easy thing is to sneer or opt out of the challenges which come along.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Well at least Eddie is honest – the DUP having signed up to the transfer in the STA were pretending, as were numerous DUP posters here on Slugger that the DUP would love nothing more than to see the transfer take place.

    Any backsliding now, by the increasingly worried looking Robbo, will be (rightly) seen as a huge victory for Jimbo and the TUV -having freightened the red-white-and-blue out of the DUP at the Euros – as he has backed his party into a very tight corner – fecked if he does and fecked if he doesnt.

    …meanwhile, as Robbo tries to get out of a tight spot Davey Trimble is presumably sitting comfortably somewhere, admiring his good work and smiling meanacingly to himself, as he sticks another of those little sharp pins into the figurine that has a distinct resemblance to a certain Mr Robinson.

  • USA

    I was not overly impressed by this article. Curran complains that transfer of P+J is a step in dismantling the Union (gross exageration) and in the same breath states that these powers last rested with the old Stormont and its unionist ministers.
    Surely if it suited the old Stormont regieme then unionists should be comfortable with it now. Then he suggests a poll of “Unionist” voters, but why just Unionists? P+J effects everyone, its not just a unionist decision.
    Sounded like a lot of hot air to me, not very impressive but standard fare at the Belfast Telegraph.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    re. BellyTelly,

    the irony of a Dublin, even if it is a Dublin 4, owned paper advising against measures which might lead to a “dismantling the Union ” .

  • TKbytesback

    Thankfully the influence of Ulster’s wine and cheese lobby is diminishing.

  • igor


    “how has Alliance survived?”

    I haven’t a clue but is mere survival the epitomy of its political objectives?

    But in any case, my target wasn’t poor Davy – it was the entire process (or lack of it)

    PS I note your name. You aren’t the Alliance party’s Granny are you?