McGuinness urges unionists to ‘hold their nerve’
McGuinness urges unionists to ‘hold their nerve’

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has said the only obstacle to the devolution of policing and justice powers would be if the DUP “loses its nerve.”

The Deputy First Minister said Peter Robinson’s party would be making a “huge mistake” if they rowed back on commitments on devolution of the powers.

“The only difficulty that we could be facing would be for the DUP to lose its nerve and to renege on the joint commitments that both Peter Robinson and I have made. The DUP would be making a huge mistake to be frightened or to be nervous about how they go forward when it is quite clear that devolution is quite popular.”

Mr McGuinness also said now that the funding for the plan has been agreed he would be surprised if it did not go ahead by Christmas.

“I think it would be a very strange thing for a political leader to agree this process and go through all we have gone through if he was going to be spooked by anything the Ulster Unionists would say.”

The Mid Ulster MP also said the Ulster Unionist Party has played a negative role in the Assembly and urged them not to “cosy up” to Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice.

“The UUP need to make big decisions, they need to decide on their role in these institutions. I believe to date they have played a very negative role. They are, at best, semi-detached ministers.

“I also believe they have quite shamelessly pursued an electoral alliance with Jim Allister’s TUV rejectionists and this is now dictating much of their approach to the institutions.”

His comments appeared to be borne out today after the UUP warned that the devolution of justice powers from London to Belfast should be postponed following an internal report on the state of policing in the North.

The PSNI strategic review catalogued “major problems”, according to ‘leaked’ reports.

The internal document -- which was prepared by the PSNI itself -- claimed the force was primarily focused on paper work.

The document also questioned future relationships between the PSNI and any new Ministry of Justice at Stormont, according to reports.

The Ulster Unionist Party’s Tom Elliot claimed it had thrown a question mark over the devolution of policing and justice powers.

“The UUP position is that devolution of Policing and Justice may be possible in the future if the circumstances are right. We have, however, expressed our concerns that the arrangements between the DUP and Sinn Fein would result in a puppet minister subject to joint control, permanent veto and answerable only to [the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister],” he said.

The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) human rights group called for the internal PSNI document to be published.

CAJ Policing Programme Officer Mick Beyers said: “We recognise that the PSNI is an organisation in transition and CAJ will not prejudge the findings of the Strategic Review until we have read the report.

“However, it is critical that CAJ and other key stakeholder organisations, as well as the wider community, have access to such documents which not only have radical implications for the structure and management of the police, but also for human rights, accountability, equality and community safety.”

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