Friday 15 August 2008

Policing and Justice

When the Northern Ireland Assembly was re-established following the St Andrew's negotiations, a couple of matters remained unresolved. The most important of these is the transfer of Policing and Justice powers from the Northern Ireland Office (which is run by the Government of the day in Westminster).

Policing and Justice, under the procedures for nomination within the assembly, should fall to SDLP. However, the two main parties, DUP and Sinn Fein, remained undecided on how to proceed, with some of the more dogmatic members of the DUP determined not to have these powers devolved and likewise within Sinn Fein concerns exist about the political damage they may endure if a SDLP member proves an effective minister with this particular portfolio.

Policing and Justice will prove to be the most controversial ministerial appointment and as such the petty party politics which surround its devolution have included discussions on making the minister a non-executive appointment. This would diminish their office and also make them unable to participate in executive discussions on the NI budget, which would inevitably restrict their ability to discharge the functions of this Ministry.

Time has now come for real leadership and to ensure that we have appropriate accountability in the court service and also how our policing service is organised and run.

Time to lead.