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McGuinness urges acceptance of financial package on policing

Northern Ireland politicians should accept the British Government's financial package to transfer policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said yesterday.

After the latest round of talks on the issue ended at midnight Thursday at Downing Street, Mr McGuinness yesterday confirmed he will tell his party to accept the Government offer and he urged other parties to do the same.

Democratic Unionist Party leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson today said the continued talks on the issue had secured additional funds.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will now put in writing the government's offer to cover police and court service budgets, plus financial schemes to handle the cost of dealing with legacy issues from the Troubles.

Mr McGuinness today said: "In recent months the issue of policing and justice transfer has dominated the political agenda in the north. The key issue to be resolved was getting an adequate financial package for a future justice department.

"Last night I was in Downing Street, along with Peter Robinson, attempting to conclude the negotiation on this financial package. I am glad to report that good progress was made.

"Indeed it is my view that this aspect of the negotiation is now at an end. The British Prime Minister is to provide in writing in the coming days the details of the financial settlement on a future policing and justice budget. I then expect that to be put to the parties."

In an address on building an all-Ireland economy he told business leaders in Co Donegal: "I will be recommending to Sinn Fein that we accept this and move forward on that basis. I believe other parties must do likewise.

"I am very conscious of the responsibilities of political leadership and very conscious that we are in these positions because people elect us to be here. Our responsibility to them is to lead from the front."

The devolution of policing and justice was promised in the St Andrews agreement that paved the way for setting-up the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

But while republicans have pressed for swift progress on the issue, the DUP has said it wants to make sure key issues, including the financing of the move, are agreed first.

Today DUP leader Peter Robinson said the series of negotiations had added substantially to the funds on offer and helped improve the deal.

After the Downing St talks Mr Robinson repeated his position that he would not be pressured into a deal.

He told the BBC: "The Prime Minister understands the issues. He is going to put together his proposal on paper.

"I've been in many sets of negotiations and we will want to be sure that the issues that we have discussed are interpreted and expressed in the communication in the way that we would expect, and then colleagues are going to have to make a judgment based on the proposition."

Leader of the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) Jim Allister hit out at the prospect of a DUP deal with Sinn Fein.

"For Traditional Unionists devolving policing and justice is not a mere matter of money, it is about the much deeper issue of the folly of gifting such vital and sensitive issues to an Executive and Assembly where IRA/Sinn Fein - the party which still justifies their IRA's murder of policemen and judges - holds the power of veto," he said.

"Ending British control of policing and justice has long been a strategic republican demand... No Unionist should be facilitating the attainment of their goal. A triumphant Martin McGuinness in Downing Street is warning in itself."

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