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Northern Ireland parties agree on police, justice

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-18

The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin have agreed on the establishment of a devolved police and justice system in the province. The issue had frozen the work of the power-sharing executive since June.

Northern Ireland's leaders have struck a deal allowing power-sharing cabinet meetings to resume in the British province for the first time in over four months, they said Tuesday.
  
The self-rule executive, which has not met since June due to a dispute over police and justice powers, will meet again on Thursday, said First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness.
  
Power-sharing between Sinn Fein, which wants union with the Republic of Ireland, and the pro-London Democratic Unionists (DUP) resumed last year, although London retained justice and police powers pending an accord on those.
  
But attempts to unblock that dispute ran into the sand earlier this year and the executive has not met for over four months as Sinn Fein and the DUP wrangled over the exact modalities of devolving the powers to Belfast.
  
On Tuesday they announced they had reached an accord, which will set up a justice department and give Northern Ireland its first attorney general for three decades.
  
"We have agreed the process by which such devolution (of policing and justice functions) will take place," said McGuinness, while stressing that the suspension of executive meetings has left a significant backlog of work.
  
"The meetings will continue each week until business is up to date. We will then revert to our fortnightly meetings," he said.
  
In September, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned that Northern Ireland risked throwing away a decade of progress unless it took the final steps towards full devolution from London.
  
Brown urged the parties to demonstrate to the world that they have achieved lasting peace and prosperity after more than three decades of strife that were largely brought to an end by the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

Date created : 2008-11-18

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