Ian Paisley’s DUP have gone back on a deal to agree the devolution of policing, Sinn Féin has said.

The party’s Ard Chomhairle [executive] is tomorrow to reconsider its decision to call a special party conference [Ard Fheis] later this month. The conference had been expected to approve a motion endorsing the PSNI police and the policing boards and urging republicans to co-operate with police investigations.

Party leader Gerry Adams said the DUP had approved the text of the motion. The DUP was, in return, supposed to say that if Sinn Féin translated its words into actions they would accept the transfer of policing powers from London to Belfast by May 2008.

Mr Adams said the DUP had accepted that the published Sinn Féin motion, contained the required form of words. According to Mr Adams, the DUP leader Ian Paisley’s response, in the form of a New Year statement, was to include the following text:

“The DUP has always maintained that it will support devolution of policing and justice if there is sufficient confidence across the community.

“The words needed are those contained in the Ard Chomhairle motion.

“Provided Sinn Féin translate into action the commitments contained in that motion, the DUP will accept devolution of policing and justice in the timeframe set out in the St Andrews Agreement or even before that date.”

The St Andrews proposals, set out by the Dublin and London governments foillowing negotations in October, contains a timeline for devolution on March 26, with fresh elections to the Belfast Assembly set for March 7. However, the DUP has repeatedly denied making any commitment on deadlines or what it terms “delivery”.

Mr Adams said because of the DUP’s failure to fulfil their part, there was now a crisis in the process.

“The DUP have refused to accept power sharing within the St Andrews timeframe.

“The basis of the Ard Chomhairle motion has been removed. We have to find another basis to move forward.

“It will be very difficult but I see this as a challenge to be faced and overcome.”

He said there was still an “urgent” need to get the power sharing arrangements in place, and the Ard Chomhairle would meet on Saturday to “judge all of these matters in the round”.

On Monday, the DUP leader Ian Paisley denied he had entered any agreement regarding future political progress in the recent negotiations, while DUP representatives still refuse to speak directly to Sinn Féin.

However, the DUP has said publicly it “will not be found wanting” if Sinn Féin agrees to support ther PSNI and makes other concessions.

The London government has said this should be taken as a clear hint that the DUP will follow through on a commitment to power sharing. The Dublin goverment has said Sinn Féin should support the PSNI police because “it is the right thing to do”.

Yesterday DUP leader Ian Paisley accused Sinn Féin of trying to distort the St Andrews Agreement.

He said there was no requirement for his party to agree to the devolution of justice by May next year, and that the St Andrews proposals contained only an aspiration of the two governments about what they would like it done.

“People should understand there is not a line in the St Andrews report at all about saying that, at a certain date, we must hand over these powers and work a joint system in security,” he said.

The DUP has always insisted Sinn Féin’s support for the police, its recognition of the courts and British rule of law had must be “tested by its actions” and the party “decontaminated” over a “credible period of time”.

Sinn Féin has sought to move quickly into power-sharing in the Six Counties in order to boost its appeal in the forthcoming election in the 26 Counties.

It now faces increasing competition from the new ‘Concerned Republicans’ group, which is to contest the Assembly elections on a more traditional republican ticket.

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