Northern leaders claim further progress on devolving policing

 

PETER ROBINSON and Martin McGuinness have claimed further progress in talks with British prime minister Gordon Brown over the troubled devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister held their fifth meeting in 10 days with Mr Brown at Downing Street yesterday and announced that fewer items remained unresolved.

“There are still two issues that we are seeking clarification on and then we will go back to colleagues and supply them with the clarification that they sought,” Mr Robinson said

Speaking outside Downing Street alongside Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, he declined to say what the issues were. But he added they were important and went to the heart of concerns held by the DUP officer team in Belfast.

“I hope that the prime minister can clarify these matters as soon as possible,” he added.

Mr Wilson said Mr Robinson was right to hold out for a better package, claiming that the terms now on offer were “much better than they would have been if he had given in to the urgings to settle three weeks ago”.

Sinn Féin has been claiming since protracted talks at number 10 last week that the talks on a financial package to support the transfer of powers were effectively ended. Mr McGuinness said yesterday: “Apart from one or two little technical issues we have finalised the negotiations. This is not about figures at this stage, this is about technical matters.”

It is expected that the details of the deal will soon be made public and that talks involving other party leaders on the issue will be tabled, perhaps as early as today.

This will be of particular importance to the DUP, which is standing by claims that community support is essential to the successful transfer of powers.

The SDLP has claimed that its move to set December 7th as the date for devolution was vetoed by Sinn Féin during a Stormont committee meeting yesterday.