Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Tuesday, 11 March 2008

No agreement on powers transfer

police officers
The government wants policing and justice powers devolved

A Stormont committee which examined progress on devolution of policing and justice powers has failed to reach agreement on when it should happen.

The Assembly and Executive Review Committee said the government's May target for transferring the powers cannot be met.

"The committee recommends political parties commit to further discussions," its report said.

The DUP and UUP said more time was needed to build public confidence.

Both have called for the IRA's army council to disband before the transferral takes place.

Although the committee members were unable to agree on a timeframe, they did agree any future department should be responsible for 26 bodies.

These include the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Policing Board, the Prison Service, Court Service and Public Prosecution Service.

Sinn Féin Policing Board member Alex Maskey said unionist opposition to the transfer of powers by May had nothing to do with policing and justice, but was purely political.

"Any unionist opposition to the transfer of policing and justice powers is not based on a desire for proper policing," he said.

Secretary of State Shaun Woodward welcomed the report and said government figures suggested the majority of people in Northern Ireland want the powers devolved.

Speaking earlier, the DUP's Nigel Dodds said many issues still needed to be dealt with.

"Policing and justice are particularly sensitive," he said.

"When it comes to policing there is a special set of rules. We don't believe that terrorists, or criminals, should have anything to do with policing - whether it's as members of the police force or running the police force."

The government has drawn up legislation to transfer powers when asked to do so.

It is up to the assembly to ask it.

The government has made it clear that it wants devolution of the powers to be completed as quickly as possible.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have said they believe public confidence in the criminal justice system will suffer if devolution is delayed.

DUP justice stance 'could harden'
23 Feb 08 |  Northern Ireland
Paisley pressed to devolve police
18 Feb 08 |  Northern Ireland
Justice transfer plans 'fading'
16 Feb 08 |  Northern Ireland
Justice transfer 'must be soon'
11 Feb 08 |  Northern Ireland
Justice devolved 'by end of 2008'
09 Jan 08 |  Northern Ireland

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