Page last updated at 21:17 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

NI justice bill passes last stage

Police officers
Sinn Fein and the DUP are at loggerheads over policing and justice

A bill paving the way for the devolution of policing and justice in the future has passed its final stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The bill creates a justice department and allows a justice minister to be appointed with cross-community backing.

Speaking in the chamber, Martin McGuinness appealed to all sides to support the devolution of the powers.

He also rejected DUP claims Sinn Fein was motivated by fear of its critics in the SDLP and republican circles.

Earlier on Tuesday, DUP leader Peter Robinson said progress would only be made on the devolution of justice in a climate free from threat.

He accused Sinn Fein of "being out of step" with the British, Irish and American governments in claiming his position was intransigent.

Mr Robinson said the decision to devolve policing and justice powers would not be measured in years, but on whether outstanding issues were resolved.

He was reacting to comments by a Sinn Fein spokesman who claimed the DUP had no intention of backing the transfer of justice powers to Stormont.

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