Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Robinson warns NI justice deal 'must be honoured'

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson says he committed to the assembly

The first minister has hinted that he could trigger a post-dated resignation if he does not believe the Hillsborough deal is being faithfully implemented.

However, Peter Robinson said he believed Sinn Fein was committed to the agreement.

He made the comments during an assembly debate about the deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein on devolving policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson said he believed devolution was for the good of the country.

"I think everybody has recognised that there are methods available, particularly to the two main parties in this assembly, which can be used at any and all times if they wish to bring down institutions to make sure that things don't work, to act as vetoes," he said.

Elaborating on his reference last week to the "clever device" he had to ensure Sinn Fein compliance, Mr Robinson cited the example of former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, who triggered the suspension of the assembly after resigning on the issue of IRA decommissioning.

"It's well recognised that just as the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party once wrote out his post-dated resignation and eventually caused a suspension of the assembly, just as it was reported in the newspapers that the deputy first minister was prepared to resign.

"Unquestionably if he had done, we would have probably ended up with something worse than suspension of the assembly, probably the collapse of the assembly - so too have I the ability to do exactly the same things as both of them if I felt if there was bad faith on the part the signatories to this agreement," he said.

Mr Robinson also added that he had continued his political work during his recent personal crisis because of a "sense of duty".

"I believe what we are doing actually matters, that what we are trying to achieve in this assembly is something for the betterment of all the people in Northern Ireland."

He was responding to a question from UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, who asked him if he had any discussions with the British government about the possibility of a suspension of the assembly in the event of a failure to implement the Hillsborough deal.

'Significant'

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the deal announced between the parties last Friday was of great importance.

"The Hillsborough agreement could be the most significant agreement made in recent years if, as the first minister says, we allow it to lead us onward and upwards," he said.

"I travel with hope and optimism, I look on the bright side and whenever this party makes commitments, we are absolutely dedicated to keeping those commitments."

The DUP and Sinn Fein reached a deal that will see the Northern Ireland first minister and deputy first minister table a resolution for a cross-community vote on the issue in the assembly on 9 March.

If this is passed, it will lead to the devolution of powers by 12 April.

The government will set out the parliamentary schedule in Westminster for the related legislation required to effect devolution.



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