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Sinn Fein fears Tory U-turn on justice cash

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness

By Noel McAdam

It would be a “major act of criminality” if a future Tory Government reneged on a cash plan underpinning the transfer of police and justice powers to Stormont, Martin McGuinness has said.

With David Cameron likely to lead the next British Government, the Deputy First Minister revealed he has discussed the issue with Shadow Secretary of State Owen Paterson, and voiced his concerns over the UUP — the Tories’ partner party — strategy on policing.

Mr McGuinness said he regarded UUP demands for a five-year financial testing period before the handover from Westminster is finalised as “unhelpful”.

His attack came as a detailed report on the financial support Prime Minister Gordon Brown will pledge to meet the costs of the switch, estimated at £600m. Mr McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson are due to meet Mr Brown next month after which they will have to make crunch decisions which could see the devolution of police and court responsibilities by December.

The senior Sinn Fein negotiator told the Belfast Telegraph he had a “reasonable expectation” that would happen, and added that with the financial settlement resolved he could forsee no other major obstacles ahead.

Sinn Fein and the DUP have between them the numbers necessary to vote legislation through the Assembly.

But Mr McGuinness was asked whether the next British Government — particularly if it is a Conservative administration — would feel obliged to implement cash promises in the face of an expected severe squeeze on public spending.

“It would be an act of criminality for any incoming Government to renege on commitments made. I believe both Labour and the Conservatives are aware of the importance of this issue,” he said.

“I have met Owen Paterson, who strikes me as someone who is a straight talker and raised the issue of the performance of Ulster Unionist ministers on the Executive, particularly in relation to policing and justice. But that is an issue only those two parties can resolve.”

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