The British government has been accused of conceding to unionist blackmail after it emerged that a twenty million pound “gratuity payment” is to be paid to former part-time members of the RUC.
The money is being paid as part of British efforts to win DUP support for the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast.
The notorious RUC police, long viewed by nationalists as a unionist militia, was linked to numerous incidents of collusion and murder before it was reformed under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Sinn Fein Junior Minister Gerry Kelly said the planned payment were an effort by the British government “to buy off the DUP”.
Details of the payments were uncovered in a letter from British prime minister Gordon Brown to DUP leader Peter Robinson.
Robinson, the First Minister in the Stormont Assembly in Belfast, said Sinn Fein was “snooping” on his official correspondence, but confirmed he had received the letter.
“For clarity, it should be known that the prime minister’s office sent my letter to [the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister], not knowing that Sinn Fein would be snooping on my correspondence.”
Mr Kelly said the planned payment was “wrong and unacceptable”.
He added that the Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, had insisted during negotiations that any proposed payment “was no part of the process to transfer powers on policing and justice”.
Last week, another DUP demand effectively scuppered the prospect of any immediate agreement on the transfer of powers from London to Belfast.
The hardline unionist party called for the abolition of the Parades Commission, which adjudicates on the routes of contentious sectarian parades, as a precondition for agreement.
Commentators have warned that Robinson may not now intend to conclude a deal ahead of the next British general election, due by May of next year.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams claimed a deal had been reached in talks with the British government last week, but it had been immediately wrecked by the DUP.
“The point in time Sinn Fein knew this was a DUP precondition was when Peter Robinson spoke in the House of Commons on Tuesday,” Mr Adams said.
He said Sinn Fein was “not prepared to put any preconditions up in terms of this very clear issue that is to do with local politicians legislating on policing issues”.
He also accused the DUP of not showing a sincere or serious effort to resolve issues relating to Orange Order parades.
“And any attempt to put the resolution of that issue in front of and as a precondition for the transfer of policing and justice powers is totally and absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
The DUP press office issued a dismissive response to the Sinn Fein president’s comments.
A spokesman said the DUP had given a “detailed explanation” of its position to Sinn Fein.
“If his representatives are unable to understand or explain the DUP position following those discussions he should replace them,” the spokesman said.
SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood claimed Sinn Fein had been duped by the DUP.
“In August the SDLP said that part of the price to be paid for devolution of policing and justice would be the British government’s conceding to the DUP’s demands for the abolition of the Parades Commission,” he said.
He warned the renewed debate over the parades issue could “destabilise” the situation.
“The commission, for all its poor judgments on a number of recent parades, remains a better model for the management of parades in the absence of local agreement.”
Meanwhile, a senior republican has warned the DUP that nationalists would not be bullied into accepting the abolition of the Parades Commission as a political demand.
Springfield Road community activist Sean Murray said a parades ‘code of conduct’ was needed and insisted that the right for people to live free from sectarian harassment should be incorporated in a bill of rights.
Mr Murray, who participated in the Strategic Review of Parading, said: “Until those issues are resolved I won’t be agreeing to anything.”
Mr Murray accused the DUP of using the parades issue as a “smokescreen” to hinder the transfer of policing and justice powers.
“I don’t think the DUP want the transfer of policing and justice powers and are simply caving into pressure from the Orange Order,” he said.
“The DUP just want the scalp of the Parades Commission for their own selfish political ends.
“No nationalist is going to be bullied into working to a DUP agenda.”