Irish Republican News · January 3, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Paisley to oppose devolution of powers

The DUP leader Ian Paisley has clashed with British Secretary Shaun Woodward over the devolution of police and justice powers from London to Belfast, which is scheduled for May.

Their New Year messages showed sharp divisions which may set the tone for the new political term at the Belfast Assembly.

Mr Woodward said that “the people of Northern Ireland” expected the political parties “to finish the job of devolution and devolve policing and justice powers to the Assembly”.

“It is for the parties to decide when the time is right, but the [ British] government will be ready to make the transfer of powers next May as envisaged in the St Andrews Agreement.”

Only when the transfer of powers is completed could the full potential of the Six Counties be realised, he said.

However, the DUP leader declared he “had not signed up to May 2008 or any other arbitrary date set by the government for the devolution of policing and justice”.

“It is not the government who will dictate the timetable but the people of Northern Ireland through their political representatives,” Mr Paisley said. “

The DUP has been consistent in maintaining that policing and justice powers can only be devolved when the circumstances are right and when we are satisfied that there is the necessary confidence within the community to support such a move.”

He reminded the Northern Secretary of what he said was the “triple lock” veto on further devolution of policing and justice powers.

“Before parliament would vote to amend the legislation to devolve the powers, the First Minister would have to agree to such a move and the Assembly would have to ratify it. We are a long way from that point,” Paisley said.

Sinn Féin has identified the transfer of the powers from the Westminster parliament in London as a key priority in 2008.

In his New Year message, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams made clear that creating a department of justice in the Northern Executive is a top priority.

Mr Paisley said that Sinn Féin “has come a long way since the days when they claimed the police were legitimate targets and when republicans refused to recognise the judicial system”.

But he warned Mr Woodward: “The DUP will not be led by the nose on this issue. We will not act until the conditions are right and confidence exists across the community for policing powers to be handled at Stormont.”


* The belief that Ian Paisley was “associated with paramilitaries” and that he should be arrested for conspiracy was discussed by senior government officials in 1977.

The remarks about Mr Paisley, who is now first minister, emerge in the confidential minutes of a meeting at Stormont during the United Ulster Action Council strike of May 1977, released under the 30-year rule

At a meeting on May 10 1977, permanent under-secretary of the Northern Ireland Ofice, Brian Cubbon stressed the importance of dealing with loyalist criminality.

The minutes continue: “It was pointed out, however, that the person responsible [Mr Paisley] was associated with and had the support of the Protestant paramilitaries and it was queried whether he ought not to be held for conspiracy.”

The hope was expressed that when the strike ended there would be no question of a formula being devised “to allow Mr Paisley off the hook”.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News