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Last Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007, 14:54 GMT
Paisley denies Blair's DUP claim
Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams
Policing has been a dividing issue between the DUP and Sinn Fein
DUP leader Ian Paisley has denied he ever agreed that policing and justice powers would be transferred to the Northern Ireland Assembly by 2008.

He was responding to an article written by the prime minister in which he said the DUP would share power in March if republicans backed the police.

Mr Paisley accused Tony Blair of misrepresenting his party's policy in the Belfast Telegraph and Irish Times.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams cautiously welcomed the article.

Mr Blair's assessment was that, if Sinn Fein delivered on policing, the DUP would accept devolution of justice powers by May 2008.

But Mr Paisley said he had never agreed there would be a transfer of justice powers within this time limit. He said he was "amazed" by the prime minister's statement.

Sinn Fein has been keen for the DUP to commit to a time limit but the DUP has refused.

Mr Paisley said the time had come for the government to face up to the IRA and make it clear that delivery was needed.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair said Sinn Fein's leadership was 'remarkable'
Downing Street has refused to comment on its private conversations with Northern Ireland parties.

However, a spokesman said Mr Blair's assessment was based on what should happen if Sinn Fein delivered fully on its commitment to support the police and the rule of law.

In his article in Monday's papers, the prime minister also said that Sinn Fein's leadership was the most remarkable he had witnessed in modern politics.

The prime minister said it would be "crazy" for either Sinn Fein or the DUP to default on the St Andrews Agreement.

There is not any chance at all of the prime minister or myself going back to parliament and asking for fresh emergency legislation
NI Secretary Peter Hain
Dismissing any change to proposed March election date
Mr Adams said his party was still awaiting a more positive response from the DUP following Mr Blair's statement last week about policing and power-sharing.

He said he "cautiously welcomed" what Mr Blair had written in the article.

"He's obviously giving the DUP yet another chance," he said.

Political developments

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern have been meeting in Dundalk to discuss the latest political developments.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Hain said there was no prospect of altering the proposed election date in March if the DUP and Sinn Fein failed to reach agreement over policing and power-sharing.

"There would need to be an emergency bill in parliament to change those dates," he said.

"Given that the process was established just two months ago by emergency legislation, there is not any chance at all of the prime minister or myself going back to parliament and asking for fresh emergency legislation."

In a separate development, Security Minister Paul Goggins has given evidence to the Stormont Sub-Committee on Policing and Justice, which is discussing potential ministerial models for a future justice department.

The session was a low-key affair with the parties confining themselves to detailed questions about police community support officers and other matters.

The politicians intend to deal with wider questions about the appointment of a future local justice minister when Mr Goggins' boss, Peter Hain, gives evidence to the sub-committee on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Sinn Fein is expected to hold a meeting to discuss its Ard Fheis.


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