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?


WorldbyStom said...

Mind you, in fairness, if you take the GFA precedent, it took how many years before decommissioning was commenced? Three as it happens, October 2001 was the first act of decommissioning. So the IRA too was acting beyond the terms of the agreement.

Wednesday said...

You've completely missed my point. Points, actually. First is that they weren't acting beyond the terms of the agreement, because the terms of the agreement didn't include an actual deadline. We pointed that out repeatedly and it would be hypocritical for us to insist that the devolution clause in St Andrews is any different.

Second, the length of time the decommissioning process took is precisely what I meant by "We all know the rest". Again, I think devolution will run a similar course.

WorldbyStorm said...

It was late in the evening when I read it... I'll be more focused next time...

Ciarán said...

The Irish Language Act was also a key element in the negotiations. Look what happened there. Not only have the unionists prevented progress on that issue, they've actually been able to roll back what little the Irish language community has been able to obtain from the previous Stormont administration.

All I can say is that thankfully at least Caitríona Ruane is Minister for Education (plus it's not like someone else would've treated the classroom assistants any better).

Anonymous said...

That's a valid point too Ciarán. I said at the time of the policing debate that I didn't think the Assembly was a prize worth sacrificing our principles over. So far I've seen nothing to change my mind about that.

Wednesday said...

Oops that was me, of course.

asgdehg said...


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