Belfast Telegraph

David Gordon: Republicans benefit if they’re seen to ‘deliver’

The devolution of policing and justice powers has long been top of Sinn Fein's Stormont priority list. If it placed a tick against it last night, it should have been in pencil.

That's because the question of what the DUP will gain on the parades issue has not yet been answered — at least in public.

Parading reform proposals have to be on the table two weeks before the scheduled March 7 Assembly vote on the handover of policing powers.

The two parties need each other to make the new deal work.

Sinn Fein has set a lot of store on securing the transfer of security powers. It will talk up the symbolism involved, as part of its propaganda battle with dissidents. And it is also in need of something concrete to show voters from its time in power.

Other demands on the republican wish list — like an Irish Language Act and enhanced north/south institutions — still remain unresolved.

They are to be left to a new Executive working group, which could be a forum for yet more wrangling.

Unlike the DUP, Sinn Fein has yet to suffer any electoral fallout from being jointly at the helm of the “dysfunctional” Executive.

However, it will be fighting the General Election with Caitriona Ruane's less-than-popular school transfer system to defend.

Then there is the scandal surrounding the abuse allegations against Liam Adams, brother of the party president.

That is also likely to cause further damage to the party's already ailing fortunes in the Republic of Ireland.

The Stormont Assembly clearly remains its best prospect. It has now got a date for policing powers, something that was not nailed down in the St Andrew’s Agreement.

With more than a little help from London and Dublin, the date has been named without the “nuclear option” of Martin McGuinness resigning as a Deputy First Minister.

Now the task for Sinn Fein is to make sure the deal is delivered.

As one of the architects of the peace process, the SDLP might be expected to do all it can to help.

But that would hardly enhance its electoral chances.

DAVID GORDON, POLITICAL EDITOR

Belfast Telegraph

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