DUP ‘seeking new renegotiation’
DUP ‘seeking new renegotiation’

Nationalists have warned that unionists are seeking a new political agreement for the North of Ireland in return for the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast.

On Tuesday the DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson delivered a speech in Belfast, in which he called for a change to the voting systems in both the Assembly and Executive to permit majority rule in the Six Counties.

The SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the Dublin and London governments should be aware the DUP would demand a high price for the devolution of policing and justice.

He said Robinson’s demands were “tantamount to a virtual review of the Good Friday Agreement as the context in which the DUP would consider the devolution of justice and policing,” Mr Durkan said.

“That has happened in this process before”, he added.

“They put all sorts of other issues on the table to be bartered and bundled, and of course the two governments have made the mistake of always allowing that to happen.”

On Tuesday, Mr Robinson insisted the present system of designating the parties as nationalist or unionist (or neither), for power-sharing purposes, was “undemocratic”. He said a simple 65% majority vote should be enough to pass legislation in a “streamlined” Stormont.

“As a moral and practical matter community designation is fundamentally flawed,” he said.

“It is deeply undemocratic; it entrenches community division and hinders the development of normal politics in Northern Ireland, and in practice means that the votes of all Assembly members are not equal.”


Commentators suggested the new hard line from the DUP could represent the start of positioning ahead of a Westminster general election next year.

Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, accused Robinson of playing “fantasy politics”, insisting that the rights and safeguards secured under the original 1998 Good Friday Agreement “cannot be changed”.

“The speech made by Mr Robinson is symptomatic of the mixed messages emanating from the DUP over recent times,” he said.

“In my view Peter Robinson is making the same mistakes that (former UUP leader) David Trimble made in the past. I have stated previously that Peter must not succumb to continually looking over his shoulder in fear of (unionist hardliner) Jim Allister and those within his own party who are opposed to equality and partnership.

“The present process presents challenges for all of us. However, there remains those within the DUP who have deep rooted opposition to equality and partnership government.

“It is not surprising that these new proposals emerge in the wake of Sinn Fein becoming the largest party following the European elections.

“The very fact that Peter’s remarks are in themselves confused and uncertain, in that he advocates a 65% vote in the Assembly, yet unanimity at the Executive, goes some way in highlighting just where the DUP are currently at in relation to moving the process of delivery forward.

“Peter’s proposals appear to be some attempt to create the conditions where other parties can gang up on Sinn Fein. That will not be allowed to happen.”

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