Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 18:45 UK

Brown makes justice deadline call

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NI Political Editor Mark Devenport reports on Gordon Brown's visit

The Prime Minister has called on Northern Ireland's political leaders to set a date for the transfer of policing and justice powers.

Gordon Brown argued that the Assembly could not address issues like youth disorder unless they were responsible for the "levers of change".

Most people wanted NI to have its own justice minister, he added.

Mr Brown also said the latest IMC report made it clear the IRA was no longer a threat.

"Leaders here in Northern Ireland must reach agreement between themselves and set the date for the transfer of policing and justice from the secretary of state to a justice minister in and of Northern Ireland," he said.

"I believe that none of us should doubt the importance of this, because in the agreement you reach here among yourselves - in the transfer of these powers back from Westminster - the world will see you affirm that stability is here to stay."

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams welcomed the Prime Minister's comments, but the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Sir Reg Empey, disagreed.

"I felt he was effectively scolding unionists for not getting on with policing and justice where, in fact, it is republicans that have been blockading Stormont for the last three months," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Brown, who was on a one-day visit to Northern Ireland, toured aerospace firm Bombardier in east Belfast with First Minister Peter Robinson.

The Northern Ireland Executive has not met for three months, but a meeting is planned for Thursday.

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Assembly chamber

Mr Brown's visit comes amid attempts to force a leadership contest in the Labour Party.

Also on Tuesday, the party's National Executive Committee has rejected requests for leadership nomination forms from MPs unhappy with Mr Brown's performance.

Mr Brown attended the meeting of the NEC, followed by a Cabinet meeting and talks with the new Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari before travelling to Northern Ireland.

First Minister Peter Robinson said he hoped the executive meeting would go ahead on Thursday, however, Sinn Féin said not enough political progress had been made.




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