Devolution of Policing and Justice

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Lord Trimble: The devolution of justice and policing matters has to be treated very sensitively. I remember many years ago Seamus Mallon, who was then Deputy First Minister, saying in another place that this could be contemplated only when it could be shown that the Assembly and its Executive were stable and robust. Parachuting in this issue when the Assembly is not stable and robust would be a recipe for disaster. It is a matter which we in our discussions with government and other parties over the years treated with considerable caution. We were careful to avoid making commitments of the kind which Clause 18 imposes and which flow from the St Andrews agreement.

This clause comes out of the negotiation in which the DUP were engaged and for which the Government believe they expressed broad support. They now have the opportunity to clarify that matter. I am concerned that they have already moved to the stage of discussions on devolution of policing and justice, which the St Andrews agreement states have progressed. They are moving towards agreeing a date and creating a process, whereas I had always taken great care not to commit to any date or process.

However, again and again in its contributions last night and in previous weeks and months, that party has declared its present commitment to power sharing, and to power sharing with republicans. It no longer has a principled objection to it; it is simply a matter of when republicans will do what everybody knows republicans must do.

In paragraph 7 of the St Andrews agreement, which is embodied in Clause 18, the Government state that, “implementation of the agreement published today should be sufficient to build the community confidence necessary”.

Are the Government putting on record their view that, once the St Andrews timetable is implemented—immediately after 27 March—that is sufficient to build the necessary community confidence? If so, that is a huge shift in their position and one of grave disadvantage to the unionist position.

Lord Morrow: Policing is very important. If anybody for a single second—for a single solitary moment—believes that in the lifetime of anyone who is presently engaged in politics in Northern Ireland Sinn Fein would be entrusted with the policing of Northern Ireland, I respectfully say to them that they are under a delusion. … It has been clearly said that that will not happen.

Lord Trimble: I understand why the noble Lord wanted to intervene and what he said is interesting. I simply reflect on the fact that he pronounced proudly that the DUP speaks for unionists. I would observe only that its speaking for unionists at St Andrews helped to produce this. Either it did not speak or spoke ineffectively; either way, it is a rather uncomfortable conclusion to draw.

(November 22nd, 2006)

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