Editor's Viewpoint: Real power now back at Stormont
At last the final piece of the devolution jigsaw — the transfer of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland — is in place. Now local politicians will be able to shape their — and our — destinies in a way denied to them since the old Stormont parliament was prorogued in the early 1970s.
But unlike that discredited administration, the province is now administered on a power-sharing basis.
The devolution of policing and justice powers means that one local politician, probably Alliance Party leader, David Ford, will take on a very |important portfolio for which there is no recent blueprint. Not since the old Stormont has any politician here had the opportunity to make a real impact on how policing and justice is administered. It will not be an easy task, but it is vital that the minister gets the priorities right.
While the PSNI and justice system will retain |operational independence from the politicians, the new justice minister, along with Executive and Assembly colleagues, will be able to create a policy framework reflecting local aspirations and needs. Given recent disquiet about the performance of the Public Prosecution Service and concern over sentencing policies, there is certainly a large body of work ahead for the new minister.
The Ulster Unionist Party voted against the transfer of policing and justice powers — partly in protest at how power-sharing is working in practice — but now they should join with the rest of the political parties in ensuring that the transfer is smooth and that real change is achieved.
The good wishes of political leaders in the UK, Ireland and America followed yesterday’s historic vote and now that Northern Ireland’s politicians have control over the day-to-day running of the province, it is up to them to demonstrate to the wider world that they are up to the task.