Policing pokes up its ugly head again

I see that Hugh Orde met an Assembly committee yesterday on the matter of the devolution of policing and justice powers. Orde said he sees no reason not to meet the May 2008 target date while unionists, predictably, insist that it won't happen until certain other conditions are met (including, shockeroonie, another pre-condition for republicans).

Sinn Féin's response is here, and one line is particularly noteworthy:

The devolution of Policing and Justice was a key element in the negotiations that led to the restoration of the political institutions.

What that translates to, of course, is "We secured our membership's approval on the basis of a reassurance that policing and justice would be devolved by May 2008 and we're going to have serious problems if that doesn't actually happen". There is no other way to read it, given that all and sundry on the unionist side were making it perfectly clear when St Andrews was agreed that they were not signing up to a hard-and-fast deadline.

In a way it reminds me of the old decommissioning debate. The GFA, remember, called for all parties to "use their influence" to achieve decommissioning within two years. SF said at the time that this wasn't a deadline. The IRA at the time said flat-out that they would decommission only when they were good and ready to. Nonetheless, unionists insisted it was a time-locked guarantee and sold it to their people as such. We all know the rest.

The only real question now is - when May 2008 comes and goes and there is still no devolution, will the governments do as they did with decommissioning, insist there actually was a deadline and turn against the side refusing to meet it? Or will they take a literal interpretation of St Andrews and accept the unionists' demands for further concessions? Precedent only points to one answer.


On another matter, the unionists are apparently unhappy at the suggestion that the British Government might admit that there was a war going on in the Six Counties.

Well, Chichester-Clark admitted it 36 years ago, what's the point of denying it now?

How many EU countries does it take to change a lightbulb?

Apparently, all of them.

Green Party Minister for the Environment John Gormley discovered this today when he was told that his plans to ban incandescent lightbulbs might not go ahead - because they are not banned in the rest of the EU. According to RTÉ:

...under EU mutual recognition rules that govern the internal market, member states must allow the sale [of] any product that is legally for sale in another member state.

There are clearly some exceptions to this rule (cannabis and mifepristone come to mind), but the EU Commission seems to think that incandescent lightbulbs aren't one of them. So no ban unless Gormley can get every other member state to agree.

Whatever about the merits of the proposal, this rule strikes me as utterly mad and as confirmation of the unhealthy influence that business interests have over Brussels. It's also a warning signal about the loss of sovereignty that goes along with European integration. For all the Europhiles' insistence that we are not turning into a "United States of Europe", it's worth noting that a US state doesn't have to ask the permission of all 49 others before banning a product that it deems harmful.

Still, as I can't be arsed to research the regulation in detail, I'd very much welcome if someone wanted to explain to me exactly why it doesn't apply to mifepristone.
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