Irish Republican News · November 18, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Talks deal announced at Stormont

The North's First and Deputy First Ministers have said that their parties have reached an agreement on the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast.

The power-sharing Executive has failed to meet since mid-June due to a dispute on the matter between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Policing and Justice powers were supposed to be transferred to the Stormont Assembly last May, but the DUP blocked the move.

Announcing a possible resolution of the stand-off today, First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said he was happy that the move could gain the confidence of the unionist community.

The preliminary agreement does not have a timetable, but both parties committed themselves to completing the process and the resumption of Cabinet meetings from this Thursday.

The deal follows meetings in the DUP and the Sinn Fein ardchomhairle at the weekend at which justice devolution, education reform and other major differences between the republican and unionist parties were discussed.

The stand-off has threatened to derail the troubled power-sharing government and has seen the collapse of a previous deal, which had been announced in early August.

New documents were released today detailing the process that will lead to the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Assembly, including the appointment of John Larkin QC as an attorney general for the Six Counties.

Following the agreement, a Stormont Committee will now prepare for the creation of a new Department of Justice, while responsibility for judicial appointments is to be given to a Judicial Appointments Commission.

The process will also require the selection of a still unnamed minister and efforts to build the confidence of the community in the new arrangements.

"We believe these agreements are capable of gaining the confidence of the community," said Mr Robinson.

Mr McGuinness echoed the First Minister's words, and said: "Significant progress has been made in resolving these matters. We both want devolution to happen without undue delay."

Mr McGuinness said the North's Executive will hold weekly meetings in an effort to work through the backlog of issues that has built up over the last five months.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News