Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Northern Ireland parties at odds over new sticking point on policing

Fresh tensions have emerged between Sinn Fein and the DUP over the transfer of policing and justice powers.

The issue which once threatened the future of the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland appeared to be edging towards agreement after Prime Minister Gordon Brown brokered a £1 billion deal on financing the process.

But despite Mr Brown's exhaustive negotiations relations between the parties hardened yesterday with republicans accusing the DUP of trying to squeeze concessions on Orange Order parades before allowing a deal to go ahead.

Sinn Fein has accepted the Prime Minister's financial offer, but the DUP has said action needs to be taken to secure unionist community confidence in the devolution of the powers.

DUP leader Peter Robinson told the House of Commons this week that uncertainty over the future stewardship of loyal order parades in Northern Ireland should be resolved ahead of a deal and he called for the scrapping of the Parades Commission which currently rules on controversial marches.

The removal of the commission has been a long-standing unionist goal and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams yesterday accused the DUP of trying to make it a precondition of a deal on devolution.

“This is not a sincere, genuine or a serious effort to resolve the issue of Orange parades,” said Mr Adams.

“And any attempt to put the resolution of that issue in front of, and as a precondition for the transfer of policing and justice powers, is totally and absolutely unacceptable.”

But the DUP hit out at Mr Adams's comments and said Sinn Fein was already aware of the hopes of DUP to have the parades issue dealt with once and for all.

A spokesperson said: “The comments made by Peter Robinson in the House of Commons are entirely consistent with the party manifesto.

“Our insistence upon community confidence before the devolution of policing and justice is a long-standing DUP policy.”

The Parades Commission was established in the 1990s when clashes over loyalist parades passing through Catholic areas sparked widespread violence throughout the province.

The commission took decision-making out of the hands of police and set up a process for adjudicating on marches.

The Pardes Commission’s powers include the power to re-route parades away from flashpoint areas.

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