Stormont votes on policing and justice

David Cameron has failed to persuade the Ulster Unionist Party to back the devolution of policing and justice powers, which will be voted on later today.

David Cameron has failed to persuade the Ulster Unionist Party to back the devolution of policing and justice powers, which is currently being debated and will be voted on later today. Deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, opening the debate, accused the Ulster Unionists of “cynical political opportunism” in opposing the measures.

Left Foot Forward outlined the UUP’s hostility towards such moves yesterday, and while a failure of the UUP to support the transfer of powers would not numerically pull the plug on a successful “yes” vote, Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds has previously warned that a failure of the UUP to support a deal could cause the entire process to collapse.

A recent poll, published by the Northern Ireland Office, suggests three-quarters of those in Northern Ireland supported the devolution of policing and justice, with support among the only political party to be mentioned, the UUP, reported to have been at 73 per cent.

Ahead of the vote, Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward, evoking the first anniversary of the murder of PC Steve Carroll at the hands of dissident republicans, said:

“Politicians should remember that exactly one year on from the brutal murder of Constable Carroll … a yes vote can send out the strongest possible signal to dissident republicans that politics is the only way forward in Northern Ireland and that violence has no place in the present or the future.”

In response, Danny Kennedy, UUP deputy leader, said Woodward was engaging in “political and emotional blackmail”, adding:

“This is not the first time that the NIO has released dubious polling data at a dubious time on the issue of devolution of policing and justice. However the Ulster Unionist Party will not be bullied by Shaun Woodward on this issue.”

All of which raises several important points:

• Can the devolution of policing and justice be sustained without the support of all parties in the Assembly?

Was the decision by the Conservatives to form an alliance with the UUP a complete mis-judgement by David Cameron?

• What credibility would he have in Government if he can’t persuade his political partners to back the Hillsborough Agreement whilst in opposition?

With US politicians now directly seeking to shore up the devolution agreement, was it premature of Hilary Clinton to tell the Northern Ireland Assembly in October last year that the US would not “meddle” in its affairs?

When parties agreed to a process to see the devolution of policing and justice earlier this year, the News Letter described the agreement as being “historic”; the UUP’s failure to back the agreement, could also make history for all the wrong reasons.

3 Responses to “Stormont votes on policing and justice”

  1. Mr. Sensible

    I may be in favour of maintaining the union, but I find it hard to believe that someone who wants to be Prime Minister can take sides on such a sensitive issue.

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    […] and justice powers on Tuesday. Ahead of the vote, Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward had said: “A yes vote can send out the strongest possible signal to dissident republicans that […]

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