Martin McGuinness refused to back down on his demand that a date for the policing and justice transfer is set by Christmas, issuing a warning in Downing Street last night that failure would have “serious” consequences.
The Deputy First Minister insisted it was time for the UK and Republic governments to “step up to the plate” to sort out the mess surrounding the final stages of devolution because the DUP has reneged on the St Andrews it helped to negotiate.
It followed the 12th round of talks with Gordon Brown in three months over the handover, although Mr McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson went in separately again as relations continue to be strained.
Despite the financial package totalling almost £1bn that would fund the move being agreed last month, the DUP is in no rush to |finalise the process.
Mid-January has been touted as a possible cut-off date for an agreement that would allow the work to be carried out ahead of the General Election. But the First Minister insisted yesterday there is “no red circle in my calendar”.
It has fuelled a blame game among the leaders with both |accusing the other of stalling.
Mr McGuinness said: “Policing and justice is of critical importance to everybody in the North of Ireland. I think there is widespread support for the transfer.
“It is absolutely preposterous for anyone to demand the abolition of the Parades Commission.
“We need to see the two governments step up to the plate over implementing St Andrews. The DUP are in default of it.
“If we fail to achieve a date by the new year, effectively by Christmas, then we are in a very, very serious situation.”
The transfer of the powers would establish a new Justice Ministry at Stormont in an administration led by the DUP and Sinn Fein.
Mr Robinson wants concessions on the future stewardship of Orange Order parades in Northern Ireland and says there are outstanding issues surrounding the Justice Ministry.