DUP demands unpick Good Friday Agreement
DUP demands unpick Good Friday Agreement

Talks between the first and deputy first ministers and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the devolution of policing powers have ended without agreement.

The Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, said negotiations are “at a crucial point”.

He said all parties had agreed to meet again over the next few days.

Mr Brown had attended meetings in Belfast on the issue on Monday.

Mr McGuinness and Mr Robinson held separate talks with him and afterwards both claimed there had been progress.

However, it is understood that the DUP has submitted an eight-page dossier of demands as its price for accepting devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminister to Stormont.

Besides looking for more money for policing, the party is also seeking the retention of the police reserve and the freeing up of the supply of personal protection weapons to former members of the Crown forces.

It is understood the dossier also calls for the abolition of the Parades Commission, which adjudicates on parade routes.

The DUP have been accused of producing the demands dossier as a means of boosting their unionist credentials ahead of elections next May.

Mr Robinson denied his personal relationship with Martin McGuinness was a factor, but made it clear the so-called ‘chuckle brothers’ image of political harmony had been discarded.

“I was not elected to be a buddy for Martin McGuinness, I was elected to work with him and that is why I am here,” he said.

The DUP played down the significance of the dossier of “confidence building measures”, suggesting they are not “prerequisites” over how and when it would sign up to the transfer of policing and justice powers. But Mr Robinson said he hoped the dossier would be published as the terms of any agreement on policing.

But the deterioration in the public perception of the talks was reflected in the decision by the 26 County Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin to travel to London for talks. Later this month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to fly to Belfast and US officials are expected to push for a “breakthrough” in time for her visit

Sinn Fein Assembly group leader John O’Dowd issued a statement saying that the DUP “wish list” had no place in the negotiations.

He made it clear that the full-time PSNI/RUC police reserve had to go.

“Let me be very clear. There can be no unpicking of previous agreements which have paved the way for the progress seen in recent years,” he said.

“The ending of the full-time reserve is a Patten requirement and we fully expect the new chief constable to deliver on it.”

On the threat to the Parades Commission, he added: “Republicans have been seeking resolutions to this issue for years. Yet time and again unionism has shown itself incapable of dealing with nationalist communities on the basis of equality when it comes to parades.

“We want to see an end to people being held to ransom summer after summer because of a handful of sectarian marches.”

Asked yesterday if the party was negotiating on the DUP dossier, Mr Adams said: “Our position on this is that the only negotiation we are doing is on the transfer of policing and justice.

“That is the only thing we are dealing with.

“What we are negotiating is the transfer of policing and justice. Our position on the parades is well known.

“The Orange Orders have about 3,500 parades and there are about six or seven that are truly contentious.

“They should cease going into the areas where they are not wanted. I have asked for the Orange Order to meet me and they constantly refuse.”

The SDLP policing spokesperson Alex Attwood MLA warned that any devolution of policing and justice would be “on DUP terms.”

“Little by little, the DUP devolution shopping list is emerging. The abolition of the Parades Commission and retention of the full-time reserve are just examples,” he said.

“The DUP list goes further.

“It will include rejection of a bill of rights.

“It will mean limited or little outcome from the review of expansion of north-south arrangements.

“It is probable that, at the 11th hour, Peter Robinson will throw in the need for a wholesale review of the architecture and workings of the Good Friday Agreement.”

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