“We got more on policing and justice at St. Andrews than Sinn Fein. We got control over when policing and justice will be devolved and that is how it is.” This is one of a number of key insights into how the DUP is approaching the current political deadlock in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein and the DUP are in a standoff as to when policing and justice powers will be passed to local politicians. The DUP source added:
“We are not going to give away what we negotiated out of process at St. Andrews. The DUP has political leverage on Sinn Fein. We are using that leverage. Who wouldn’t try to extract something from your political rival?”
According to the DUP some movement on matters of concern to that party could lead to change. The following items are on this shopping list:
1. The scrapping of the Parades Commission.
2. Access to personal protection weapons for former members of the security services who want arms.
3. Access to the experience and expertise of former full time police reservists.
The DUP accept personal protection weapons are a matter for the police and the chief constable. They further acknowledge how the chief constable deploys his officers is a matter for him. The DUP accept that many of the three hundred and twenty full time police reserve want to go next year.
Matt Baggott has told Peter Robinson and his colleagues that those who wish to continue to be linked to policing can apply to work in a civilianised capacity or apply to join the PSNI through the normal channels for a job in uniform. This approach has met with the approval of the DUP.
The DUP argue that publication of the ‘Ashdown Review‘ on parading could go some way to meeting their confidence demand. The first minister repeatedly talks about the need for ‘confidence’ in the community ( meaning the Unionist community) before policing and justice can be delivered. He has not stated unambiguously that he is dedicated to ‘equality’ ‘fair play’ ‘and power-sharing’ with Sinn Fein.
When the DUP source was asked to comment on the need for ‘a no ifs or buts’ declaration to clear up this Sinn Fein concern the DUP insider responded:
“No one can argue that attempts to improve the quality of Government equates to majority rule. Seeking to misrepresent the DUP’s commitment to power sharing with Sinn Fein will not help towards a resolution of difficulties. Power-sharing with Sinn Fein as of now is the only show in town. As long as the Sinners don’t want to collapse it – It can be resolved.
Why will Sinn Fein not get involved in serious negotiations on serious outstanding issues like the identity of a justice minister? Why not discuss the relationship between a minister for justice and the Executive?”
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has spoken of “baby steps” having been taken this week towards a settlement of the policing and justice row. Speaking in America he drew attention to the completion of the justice bill in the Assembly and the sending of letters to elected members seeking nominations to the post of justice minister by the First and deputy First Minister.