Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Education 'executive litmus test'

Sir Reg Empey
Sir Reg Empey said education is a "litmus test" for executive

The Ulster Unionist leader has said resolution of the 11-plus issue is "one of the party's litmus tests of the NI Executive's functionality".

Sir Reg Empey said that it "will help us to determine whether it is sufficiently mature to take on policing and justice".

The DUP leader Peter Robinson has said Ulster Unionist support for the Hillsborough Agreement is critical.

A vote on devolving the powers will be held in the NI Assembly on 9 March.

On Thursday, Sir Reg said: "The Ulster Unionist Party has long stated its concerns at the dysfunctional nature of the Executive, and we are determined to address its most glaring example - the failure to deal with the crisis in education.

"There is a shocking contrast between daily meetings to discuss parades, and the failure of the Executive to discuss education for two whole years.

"If the Executive cannot fix education - a power we currently have - then it is certainly not in any position to take on something as important as policing and justice," he said.

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 policing and justice 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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