DUP raises new stumbling block
Sinn Fein has said the British government must not allow unionists to block the deal on devolving policing and justice powers to the Belfast assembly.
Assembly member Conor Murphy said there was “no excuse” for any further delay and called on the British government to “assert its authority” on the long-standing issue.
Yesterday the DUP indicated that the abolition of the PSNI’s full-time reserve could further delay the transfer of policing and justice powers for the Six Counties from London to Belfast.
The new PSNI chief, Matt Baggott, said on Friday that he intended to proceed with the plan to cut the 400-strong reserve from 2011.
The DUP had listed retaining the reserve as a confidence building measure necessary for devolution. However, Mr Baggott has said there was no operational need to keep it. The DUP said this would be “totally unacceptable” and demanded that some or all of its members be absorbed into the regular PSNI.
DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness held another round of talks with British prime minister Gordon Brown and Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward in London on Saturday over the issue.
However, there was little sign of progress and the DUP reiterated that a number of confidence-building measures still had to be in place before powers could be transferred.
Up until last week the parades issue was seen as the DUP’s sticking point but the announcement by Chief Constable Matt Baggott on the future of the full-time reserve has provided another get-out for the DUP.
“If the chief constable’s remarks are the whole story then the position is totally unacceptable and will undermine confidence to such an extent that it will damage progress,” Mr Robinson said.
“It is not a question for debate as to whether the manpower provided by the full-time reserve is needed or not. The chief constable’s senior officers throughout the country have made it clear, both to my colleagues and me, that full-time reservists are an essential component that they cannot do without.
“If, however, the chief constable is going to absorb elsewhere within the PSNI, those remaining reservists who wish to continue serving their community through policing, then he needs to make that clear.”
Today DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said it was “absolutely clear” that the DUP would not agree to devolution if the reserve is disbanded.
Meanwhile, the SDLP said Sinn Fein had allowed the DUP to undermine the interests of the nationalist community.
Alasdair McDonnell, who is campaigning to become his party’s leader, said: “Sinn Fein is finding out the hard way just how much veto power they gave away to the DUP at the St Andrews talks.
“Desperate for a deal on the devolution of policing and justice, they let the DUP to dismantle part of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement.
“Good negotiators never put all their eggs in one basket. We warned Sinn Fein that if they gave the DUP a veto the DUP would use it.
“And they have, on education, on the Maze Stadium, on the Irish language.
“Progress on devolution is strictly on a DUP timetable and DUP terms; Peter Robinson vetoed a nationalist Justice Minister and Sinn Fein meekly complied.”
He added: “The DUP has linked devolution to an ever-lengthening wish list of goodies for their supporters; pay-offs for police part-timers, retention of the Police Reserve and over-ruling of the Chief Constable on personal protection weapons.
“And to add to Sinn Fein’s humiliation, they are pushing for a new regime on parades which might even allow Peter Robinson to dance down the Garvaghy Road.”
Speaking in Toronto, where he was attending a speaking engagement, Mr Adams said the efforts of the DUP to tie other matters to the policing and justice issue was “unacceptable”.
“The DUP is in breach of the commitments it entered into at St. Andrews,” he said. “It is also in breach of the commitment given by the DUP leader two months ago that if the financial package was secured he would go out and sell it to the community.
“The DUP’s obstructive approach to making the institutions work efficiently is eroding public confidence. The priority at this time should be to defend public services, provide jobs, and plan for the future.
“The democratic imperative is for a speedy conclusion and progress on the policing and justice issue. Anything less by the DUP leadership is a derogation of their responsibility to the people of the north and of the entire island.
“It is also providing encouragement to those rejectionist elements who are against partnership and who think they can turn the clock back.”
Speaking on the issue of Irish reunification Mr. Adams said: “Whatever the outcome of the current impasse around policing and justice the Sinn Fein project to advance Irish reunification is moving steadily ahead.
“I believe that the help of the Irish diaspora will be very important in building that momentum.
“The two conferences in the USA in June and this weekends conference in Toronto are a part of this. In the few short months since June activism around this goal has increased.
“The Good Friday Agreement is an International Treaty. It commits the British government to legislating for Irish reunification in the event that this is what people want.
“I believe that the economic and political dynamics in Ireland today make a united Ireland a realistic and realisable objective in a reasonable period of time.
“This is a daunting challenge. Not least in persuading unionism or a section of unionism that their best interests lie in this outcome.
“Such an Ireland must guarantee liberty and justice for all; ensure religious and civil liberty and equal rights and opportunities for all; and it must reconcile all sections of our people and heal the hurts between us.
“It will require thoughtful strategies - huge outreach to our unionist brothers and sisters and a patient process of nation building to unite orange and green.
“The achievement of these universal values will fulfill the dream of centuries of Irish patriots, and will create a more prosperous, just and equal society on the island of Ireland.”