Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

McGuinness issues justice warning

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness warned of trouble for the political process

Martin McGuinness has warned of deep trouble for the political process unless a date for devolving justice and policing is agreed by Christmas.

He was speaking at a news conference following a meeting with First Minister Peter Robinson and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin.

While Mr Robinson attended the North-South Ministerial Council meeting, he did not join in the news conference.

Mr Martin said he wanted to see the transfer of powers as soon as possible.

Mr McGuinness, the deputy first minister, said: "What absolutely is an imperative is to have an agreement on the transfer of power, and a date for the transfer of power, before Christmas.

"I have to say if it slips past Christmas we are in deep trouble."

Debate

On Tuesday, an SDLP motion to have a future justice minister elected through the D'Hondt system was defeated in an assembly debate on policing and justice powers.

MLAs discussed the legislation, which will provide the legal framework for the devolution of policing and justice, for almost 10 hours on Tuesday night.

However, the bill does not dictate when the powers will be transferred.

Another SDLP amendment which called for powers to be transferred by 7 December was also defeated.

DUP leader Peter Robinson has said the Parades Commission should be abolished before the transfer of power.

And at the beginning of the week, his party colleague Jeffrey Donaldson said devolution should only happen if the PSNI reserve is retained.

However on Tuesday the Chief Constable reiterated his view that there is no operational need to keep the remaining reserve officers.

Matt Baggott said the reserve should be phased out by 2011, in accordance with the recommendations of the Patton report.

The Police Federation, which is effectively the union for PSNI officers, said on Monday that the majority of officers in the full-time reserve wanted to remain in post.



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