Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Devolution anniversary passes off a quiet affair

The first anniversary of power-sharing at Stormont passed yesterday without fanfare or ceremony.

Even this afternoon's scheduled session of the Executive was called off.

Instead, the message at the main session of the United States Economic Investment Conference was 'business as usual', with most of the Executive ministers due to take part in the proceedings at some point.

"The focus is on the conference so it was decided to postpone the Executive meeting," a spokesman said.

But as the political parties reflected on the past year, the DUP said republicans had faced "hard lessons" — with more to come as they "realise parity and equality are a two-way street".

Gregory Campbell said: "As we look forward we need to demonstrate to the entire community but particularly unionists that the days of partisanship and concessions to republicanism are well and truly over.

"This will mean hard choices for republicans, but after 30 years they have to realise that the future is going to be different from the past in more ways than just the abandonment of their long-held beliefs and their long sought-after goal of trying to bring the two countries on this island together."

In a review of the past 12 months, he cited the rejection of the Irish language legislation, "thwarting" of Sinn Fein's campaign to achieve the devolution of policing and justice by this month and defence of academic selection as evidence of improvements over Direct Rule administration.

On policing and justice, he insisted: "As a result of our negotiations this matter cannot be devolved without our agreeing to it. We want it done when the time is right, it's not right now."

Alliance Party leader David Ford said he was pleased to see the first birthday of devolution but less than pleased with the performance of Executive ministers. "They have been unimaginative and have often lacked the vision and courage to take the decisions needed to improve Northern Ireland. They are meant to be making life better for local people but there is very little evidence that they have done this," he said.

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