Transfer of policing by December?
Gordon Brown will come up with a financial package for the final stages of devolution in early September that could allow the transfer of policing and justice powers to happen by the end of the year.
In Downing Street talks with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness last night the Prime Minister pledged to come up with figures within two months.
That, however, does not mean any offer on the table would be considered acceptable, the First and Deputy First Minister were keen to point out.
Over the summer officials will attempt to thrash out the detailed financial plan needed to complete the handover. Progress now depends on the “enthusiasm” of the Treasury to come up with the right numbers, Mr Robinson insisted.
“The Prime Minister has agreed a process that will start working out the figures,” he said.
“Over the last number of months we have been working on identifying where the areas of pressure are on policing and justice, attempting to quantify the extent of the funds that are required.
“That’s a job that officials will take forward over the next number of weeks. In the early part of September we would hope to have a final meeting with the Prime Minister to resolve the outstanding financial issues.
“The extent to which it is done depends largely on the enthusiasm of the Treasury to meet what we know are inescapable pressures on policing and justice.”
Mr Robinson insists a consultation will be held to ensure there is community confidence before any transfer takes place. Documents will set out exactly what impact the transfer of powers would have.
Although progress is being made, the DUP is understood to believe hope of completion by the end of the year is a little optimistic. But Sinn Fein said the negotiations with Downing Street were now coming to the “crunch point”.
Mr McGuinness said: “It’s fair to say we had a very forthright discussion but I think Gordon Brown is seized on the urgency to do this.
“We have made it clear that issue of financing the difficult legacy issues need to be resolved as a matter of urgency. I see no reason whatsoever, given goodwill on all sides, why powers on devolution of policing and justice can’t be transferred in the course of this year and I think that would be a very welcome development for all of the people of the north of Ireland.
“We are now coming to the crunch point in terms of how the British Government are going to fund the legacy issues.”