Irish Republican News · July 3, 2009
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
‘Make your mind up time’ for devolution - McGuinness

Tensions continue between Sinn Féin and the DUP over the devolution of policing and justice, the handling of the Stormont budget and a host of other issues.

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he is hopeful that the devolution of the key powers can take place, despite evidence that the DUP position has hardened.

The current talks are critical, he said.

“I am at a place now where I think it is ‘make your mind up time’ for everybody, including Gordon Brown,” he said.

Mr McGuinness travelled alone to a meeting with the British Prime Minister on Tuesday. The DUP First Minister, Peter Robinson, is to hold a separate meeting next week to have what he said is a “more detailed discussion” about the devolution of policing and justice.

“Martin McGuinness will express his own views to the prime minister and I will express mine, on behalf of the unionist population,” said the DUP leader.

Robinson said the two stumbling blocks to the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast were the financial arrangements and “gaining the necessary level of community confidence”.

Sinn Féin has also said it wants a recall of the Stormont Assembly, which has now officially gone into summer recess, to discuss the handling of the North’s budget.

Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd said that the current DUP finance minister, Nigel Dodds, had failed to account for the redistribution of money between government departments, in time for proper ministerial executive consideration.

Meanwhile, education minister Caitriona Ruane, of Sinn Féin, and outgoing environment minister Sammy Wilson have become embroiled in a row over ministerial protocol regarding school construction work.

Wilson has also moved to review the listed status of the buildings at the Long Kesh prison site, a step which Sinn Féin’s Paul Butler described as “mere publicity seeking”.

“Is Sammy seriously suggesting that there is no historical, reconciliation or indeed tourism potential with the maintenance of these buildings?

“If this is the case then it is worrying given the portfolio that Mr Wilson is about to undertake.”

Wilson, often treated as a figure of fun for his outlandish statements and behaviour, is to take over the substantial Finance portfolio in the northern Executive.


Meanwhile, another DUP ministry has controversially allocated seven million pounds to be spent by an Ulster-Scots institution which does not exist yet.

The money has been set-aside for the use of the Ulster-Scots Academy over the next two years. The academy was supposed to be up and running two years ago. Its primary focus was to be the Ulster-Scots dialect of English. Ulster-Scots is to be considered as its own distinct language, in order to provide unionism with a counter-balance to the Irish language.

North Belfast assembly member Nelson McCausland, who is the new Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, is an Ulster Scots enthusiast and is also deeply opposed to the long-sought Irish language Act.

The Department has said it is committed to the academy, but Sinn Féin’s Barry McIlduff has said the money should be spent on other projects.

McCausland has also insisted this week that he will refuse to attend any events held in Gaelic sports grounds named after republicans.

In the past he has criticised the naming of GAA sports grounds and competitions after such historic figures as Roger Casement and Sam Maguire.

The appointment of McCausland and apparent promotion of Wilson are thought to be the result of new ultra hardline approach by Peter Robinson in the aftermath of his party’s European election setback last month.

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© 2009 Irish Republican News