DUP claim permanent veto on Justice Ministry
DUP claim permanent veto on Justice Ministry

Fresh disagreement has emerged between the DUP and Sinn Féin over the selection of a future justice minister, with the DUP claiming a unionist veto over the choice into perpetuity.

This week the assembly and executive review committee met to discuss policing and justice but it broke up in some confusion.

The dispute centres on a letter in July from First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, which was initially presented as a potential breakthrough.

The agreement at that time suggested that a future justice ministry would not be taken by either the DUP or Sinn Féin and there were indications it could be offered to another party under a cross-community vote procedure.

The July letter from Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness said that a minister for policing and justice would be “elected at all times from the assembly in a way which would ensure cross-community support”.

However, the SDLP’s Alex Attwood said that after yesterday’s meeting “the rabbit is now out of the hat”.

“The SDLP warning was spot on. The DUP claimed that the letter means an assembly veto on who can be minister -- in effect a veto on any nationalist being minister -- not just now but in the future,” Mr Attwood said.

McGuinness and Robinson publicly clashed over the issue as Sinn Féin rejected claims the letter meant the arrangement was permanent.

Mr McGuinness said claims by the DUP that the arrangement would be permanent were: “Absolutely wrong. Totally untrue.”

“I listened with amusement to what Peter [Robinson] said,” Mr McGuinness said.

“The DUP are under no illusions whatsoever about where Sinn Féin is coming from on this issue.

“Our position is crystal clear and we have made it crystal clear during the course of these discussions that we are involved in.

“Now those discussions will continue and from our perspective it will continue for the purposes of achieving a successful outcome.

“The reality is that the particular context within which that phrase was used was explained in very categoric terms to Peter Robinson and to his entire negotiating team.”

The DUP and Sinn Féin are divided over a series of issues, but the most obvious split has been over republican demands for the transfer of policing and justice powers in line with the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.

A Sinn Féin spokesman added that the letter merely noted that any justice minister would be elected “at all times from the assembly” to rule out suggestions that a high profile public figure from outside the ranks of the 108 assembly members would be brought in to fill the ministry.


Meanwhile, secret files on Britain’s undercover operations in Ireland will be unavailable to a future Sinn Féin justice minister, the British government has declared.

Direct Rule Minister Paul Goggins also confirmed that the justice minister would not be permitted to see intelligence on present or past counter-republican strategy. Goggins said that if policing and justice powers are transferred from London to Belfast, issues of “national security” will remain under British rule.

His remarks marked a concession to unionists, who have sought to ensure any future nationalist justice minister will not be able to access information on Britain’s extensive network of agents and informers in Ireland and other secret Crown Force documentation.

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