The DUP has ruled out the appointment of a minister for justice if the Ulster Unionist Party refuses to endorse the establishment of a department of justice within the Executive.
A vote is scheduled in the Assembly on Tuesday on the creation of a department of justice with the minister due to take office on April 12th.
Expectations that Alliance leader David Ford would win the nomination of Sinn Fein and the DUP to take over the department have been undermined this week by revelations of his opposition to the public inquiry into Bloody Sunday.
The SDLP has proposed North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness for the position, while the UUP said it could not accept the post going to the Alliance leader.
On Sunday the DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party could not proceed with devolution of justice powers if it did not have the backing of the UUP.
One DUP figures said UUP support was necessary to ensure public confidence” for such a move, and that “the support of all the main parties was essential for that confidence”.
“The Ulster Unionists can’t be half in and half out of government,” he added.
Deputy UUP leader Danny Kennedy said the DUP with Sinn Fein had sufficient strength in the Assembly to carry the vote on policing and did not need the votes of the UUP. “They are looking for a political safety net from us which they are not entitled to,” he said.
The UUP has indicated that before they would make their final decision they needed commitments on issues such as education and a working Executive where it was accorded “proper respect” by the DUP.
Party leader suggested the DUP position was linked to internal discord within the DUP over last month’s agreement with Sinn Fein at Hillsborough Castle.
He said: “I think it’s the most bizarre situation I’ve ever heard of -- where another political party does a deal, tells us it’s a good deal, that they’re going to do this with every sinew of their being, but if somebody in another political party doesn’t vote for it, they’re not doing it.
“It may be their so-called dissident element is looking for cover. It’s the most weird set-up that I’ve ever come across.”
DIPLOCK COURTS ‘ESSENTIAL’
Meanwhile, comments by British Direct Rule Security Minister Paul Goggins claiming that non-jury ‘Diplock’ courts were ‘essential’ has angered Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein Policing and Justice Spokesperson Alex Maskey said the comments were “a retrograde step” which “flies in the face of the endeavours by many of us to move the policing and criminal justice system in the north forward.
“It is a fundamental right that people have the opportunity to be trialled by a jury of their peers; we have seen all too often the abuses of the non-jury court system by the British Government in the past.
I will be expressing my very deep concerns to the British Government on this matter immediately; there is no place for these types of trials and they must be opposed.”