Given that this week outside Westminster has been dominated by ongoing and tense negotiations over the devolution of policing and justice, this week’s “Week Outside Westminster” concentrates on how the week panned out.
• On Monday, Gordon Brown and Taioseach, Brian Cowen made an unscheduled visit to Belfast to thrash out an agreement. The visit was to last three days. Their visit came as discussions between Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness last just 35 minutes before they broke down.
• By Wednesday, after tough negations, which went on through the night two days in a row, Brown and Cowen left the talks believing a road map to a deal was in place, and giving all parties 48 hours to complete a deal or facing having one imposed by the UK and Irish Governments. However, it did not hide the fact that after hours of talks, a deal had not been reached.
• Sinn Fein again laid the blame with the DUP for dragging its heals. Peter Robinson for the DUP concluded that whilst he felt a deal could be reached, his party would not be pushed into a premature deal that did not enjoy cross-community confidence. He would not, he said “accept any second rate deal”.
• The UUP and SDLP meanwhile were angered at what they felt was their exclusion from the talks, with Ulster Unionist Leader, Sir Reg Empey making clear that he felt embarrassed that yet again the parties had to look to the UK and Irish leaders to sort the latest crisis out. The TUV Leader, Jim Allistair dubbed the talks “a failed three-day mission by the prime minister”. The Alliance Leader, David Ford was more upbeat, concluding that a deal was possible provided there was “a willingness to engage instead of engaging in the blame game and the whinge game.”
• Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward and Irish Foreign Minister, Micheal Martin continued to host talks at Hillsborough Castle. However, with the deadline fast approaching, a deal is unlikely to be done, with the UK and Irish Governments having to prepare to impose a settlement that could make or break Stormont.
Quote of the Week
“We have come a very long way as a society since the dark days of the Troubles. There is an overwhelming desire throughout Northern Ireland for continued political progress and for the peace process to be sustained.
“No-one wishes to return to the tragic patterns of the past and we believe that responsibility of the politicians is to ensure that there is no return to dysfunctional division.”
A joint statement by Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop Alan Harper, Presbyterian Moderator Dr Stafford Carson and Methodist President Rev Donald Ker
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