Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has accused the DUP of reneging on a deal for the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast this month.

Martin McGuinness has said that he received a personal commitment from senior DUP politicians that policing and justice powers would be transferred to the Northern Executive this month, as envisaged in the St Andrews Agreement. The DUP has denied this.

Mr McGuinness accused the incoming first minister Peter Robinson, the DUP deputy leader designate Nigel Dodds and former junior minister Ian Paisley jnr of reneging on the deal to devolve the powers to the Northern Executive this month.

The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister has also acknowledged for the first time that this devolution will not happen because of current DUP opposition to the move.

Mr McGuinness has expanded on a claim statement he made at the Sinn Féin conference this year that a senior DUP politician personally assured him that the transfer of justice powers would happen within the May 2008 deadline visualised by the St Andrews Agreement.

Mr McGuinness said that in the negotiations involving the DUP and Sinn Féin - they resulted in the March 26th DUP-Sinn Féin agreement to share power in May last year - former junior minister Ian Paisley jnr gave commitments about the St Andrews Agreement being fully honoured.

He said the assurance was given during talks at Stormont Castle when he and Mr Robinson, Mr Dodds and Mr Paisley jnr were in negotiation.

“When I asked the question about St Andrews I was told on the Saturday prior to the 26th (of March) - that was the 24th - that the DUP would stand by St Andrews,” said Mr McGuinness.

“It was Ian junior that said it. But nobody at the meeting said: ‘No, we can’t do that.’ When you negotiate with people and someone tells you that they will stand by it and nobody else disagrees, I think it’s fair on our part to leave the meeting on the basis that you have an agreement.”

Mr McGuinness conceded that the transfer could not happen this month. “Everybody left St Andrews on the basis that the date for transfer of power was May this year. So if it isn’t going to happen we obviously have to work with the DUP and with the governments to see when it is going to happen.”

However, the DUP denied Mr McGuinness’s account of the March 24th meeting.

“At no time during the meeting did any DUP representative give a commitment to devolve policing and justice powers by May 2008,” a spokesman said.

“Whilst the DUP favours the devolution of policing and justice powers, we have stated in our manifesto, and in other public comments, that the confidence does not exist to support any move.”

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