30/11/2009

Cowen And Brown Hold Justice Talks

Brian Cowen has flown to London in a bid to break the continued deadlock over the devolution of policing and justice powers to the North's Assembly.

He will meet with UK counterpart Gordon Brown in Downing Street later, amid mounting conflict between the province's two largest political parties.

At the weekend, Sinn Féin activists accused the Democratic Unionists of taking a "train-wreck political strategy" over the issue.

Republicans have called for a local judiciary department to be established as soon as possible.

The DUP has insisted the powers cannot be transfered until there is sufficient confidence within the Unionist community.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness met with the Irish Taoiseach on Saturday.

Mr McGuinness described the talks as "useful and constructive".

He said Mr Cowen agreed that there can be no preconditions on the transfer of policing and justice powers.

The Sinn Fein minister renewed his calls for a transition date to be set before Christmas.

"It disappoints me to say that Peter Robinson has thus far been found wanting in terms of the proactive leadership being called out for by our people," he said.

"What we all want to see now is the necessary leadership to be shown by Peter and for him to step up to the mark and to get this job done."

Sinn Fein National Chairperson Declan Kearney later suggested there was no evidence the DUP has intentions of supporting the transfer.

"Absolutely nothing suggests this position will change. Their continued intransigence is a serious political mistake. It is a train-wreck political strategy and political consequences will be inevitable," he said.

The DUP insisted it will no bow to political threats.

First Minister Peter Robinson last week mooted a shake-up of how decisions are made at Stormont.

He suggested an end to community designation voting, which would instead be replaced by majority rule.

This would mean amendments and legislation would not have to gain the backing of all the major parties, something which has proved a lengthy process.

At present, parties can veto new laws and create virtual stalemate around the Executive table.

Mr Robinson said "areas of disagreement" undermined the administration's credibility.

"The continual inability to agree on a range of issues drains credibility from the operation of devolution and if it continues over a long period of time will undoubtedly threaten its long-term survival," he said.

"I do not believe that this is in anyone's best interests."

(PR/KMcA)

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