Page last updated at 18:49 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

McGuinness: N Ireland police impasse risks devolution

By Martina Purdy
BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent

Martin McGuinness said power-sharing was unsustainable with the impasse

Northern Ireland's political institutions are unsustainable if they are not based on equality, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said.

Mr McGuinness said the impasse over the devolution of policing and justice also could not go on.

He said he required a date for the devolution of the powers by Christmas, followed by action in the New Year.

He said he met First Minister Peter Robinson, and they agreed to write to MLAs about justice minister selection.

"I think the vast majority of people want to see policing and justice in the hands of local people," he said.

I know that sometimes the rhetoric can be perplexing but I urge everyone to listen carefully both to what is said and what is not said
Shaun Woodward
NI secretary

DUP assembly member Peter Weir said Mr McGuinness's comments were "a tantrum", and warned that threats were counterproductive.

"While the rest of us have been trying to work constructively to resolve the issues around the devolution of policing and justice, it appears the deputy first minister is reverting to threatening and bullying language," he said.

A bill paving the way for the devolution of the powers in the future passed its final stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Tuesday.

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

The DUP and Sinn Fein have been arguing for months over the issue, often referred to as the "last piece of the devolution jigsaw".

The DUP leader has said policing devolution will only take place when there is sufficient community confidence while Sinn Fein wants the power transferred as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward has told an audience in the US that transfer of the powers remains on track.

Addressing an audience at Harvard University, Mr Woodward said: "We stand now on the edge of completing devolution.

"I know that sometimes the rhetoric can be perplexing but I urge everyone to listen carefully both to what is said and what is not said."

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