Sinn Fein, DUP in slapfight over deadlock
Sinn Fein, DUP in slapfight over deadlock

Sinn Fein has called on the DUP leader Peter Robinson to let people know exactly why he is still refusing to agree a date for the transfer of justice responsibilities from the Westminster parliament in London to the Stormont Assembly in Belfast.

More than a billion pounds of British money for funding policing and justice powers in the North is under threat if there is no cross-party agreement, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said today.

Hes warned that any further delays will render the power-sharing administration unsustainable - a claim that has been described by the DUP as a bullying threat.

Mr Robinson is understood to have sent an eight-page letter to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the so-called ‘demands dossier’ outlining a number of preconditions his party want to see implemented before devolution takes place.

But the DUP has insisted that the only precondition is the attainment of ‘confidence’ within the unionist community for the move.

Last night Mr McGuinness told an audience of Sinn Fein supporters in Derry that the letter needed to be made public.

He said Robinson’s letter “was neither seen or agreed by me, his partner in government, as part of our agreed process paper. Therefore I believe that publication of this letter is both reasonable and essential.”

The DUP has been consistently derisive of Sinn Fein’s attempts to force the pace ahead of a British general election in the coming months, in which the strongly pro-unionist Conservative Party is likely to triumph. Under the 2006 St Andrew’s Agreement, the DUP holds a veto over political change in the North.

On Wednesday, Mr McGuinness reiterated that the institutions could become “unsustainable” if the issue is not progressed.

This weekend Mr Robinson rejected Sinn Fein claims that he and his party were not governing on the basis of equality and accused Sinn Fein of trying to create instability.

“Sinn Fein have now told us that the process is in ‘meltdown’; it is in ‘free-fall’ and now they say unless their demands are met there will be ‘political consequences’.

“Sinn Fein is creating the very instability that many people believe is an obstacle to devolving more powers.”

His colleague, Gregory Campbell MP told Sinn Fein that the move on policing and justice may not happen for years and that they should “spell out” what they intend to do about it.

He said there was no likelihood of a date being set before the festive period.

“It will take years, for not only my colleagues or myself, but for many in the unionist community to see Sinn Fein continuing to work the Northern Ireland Assembly and not using it as some sort of battering ram.

“It appears we’re moving into the position where their speeches - and Martin McGuinness again and [26 County Taoiseach] Brian Cowen before him - were indicating if policing doesn’t happen and there’s no date before Christmas then we’re in for this train wreck.

“Well if that’s the case let them spell it out,” he said.

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