Irish Republican News · February 15, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: DUP to block transfer of powers
DUP to block transfer of powers

The North’s First Minister Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams have clashed over the devolution of policing and justice powers, scheduled for May.

Contradicting comments from 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British prime minister Gordon Brown at the weekend, DUP leader Ian Paisley claimed yesterday there was insufficient unionist confidence in the idea of a Six-County justice minister with policing powers.

The transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast is an outstanding issue since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

“As First Minister I have absolutely no intention of bringing such a proposal to the Assembly as the necessary conditions do not exist,” said Paisley.

“I do not sense any desire amongst the electorate for the devolution of policing and justice. Therefore I do not foresee a proposal being brought to the Assembly in the near future.”

He said he was now seeking an urgent meeting with the British prime minister.

“We have no St Andrews Agreement on this issue,” he added. “This idea that it must be done by May is not our idea and we never agreed to it.”

However, Mr Ahern yesterday reiterated his “strong view” that the “tight deadline” of May 1st for devolution of policing and justice powers would be met.

“From our point of view it’s a very important issue that has to be dealt with,” he said. “It is the last building block in the overall agreement.”

Paisley said he would veto any move to transfer the powers. He repeated his party’s call for a standing down of the Provisional IRA’s Army Council which he said was “a deal-breaker”.

“There is a triple lock on this issue, which gives me the responsibility of proposing to the assembly that this happens - and under the present circumstances this would be impossible.”

Sinn Féin has said the British government’s commitment to make the move by May 2008 was central to its decision to sign up to the 2006 St Andrews Agreement and make the difficult decision to endorse the PSNI police, still a British police force.

Regarding DUP demands for the elimination of the Provisional IRA’s Army Council, policing spokesperson Alex Maskey said they were “a distraction”.

“There are more important issues which affect us on a day to day basis which are about the delivery of good policing, about the community having a say as to how that is done,” he said.

Outside the Belfast Assembly, Gerry Adams insisted the transfer of justice powers was inevitable, but that there were still some issues to be sorted out with the DUP.

“The DUP claim that there is not sufficient public confidence - that the time is not right. I disagree,” he said. “I believe that the majority of people, nationalist and unionist, want these powers devolved now. They want local accountable politicians dealing with issues as diverse as police call- out times for emergencies and the PSNI’s response to anti-social behaviour and sex crime.

“The time is now right, the public confidence exists; especially on the back of the agreed programme for government, budget and investment package, to move ahead with the transfer of powers on policing and justice issues. What is needed is political will and political leadership by the DUP,” Mr Adams said.

* The DUP failed to win a closely followed by-election to Banbridge Council yesterday after Jim Allister’s anti-Agreement Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party picked up just under 20% per cent of the first preference vote.

The seat was retained by the Ulster Unionist Party on the back of transfers from the TUV and the Alliance Party. Allister said he was delighted with the result, which he said was “an unhappy Valentine’s Day for the Chuckle Brothers”.

© 2008 Irish Republican News