Page last updated at 19:25 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

McGuinness 'confident' over vote

The assembly is due to vote next week

The NI deputy first minister Martin McGuinness has said he is confident the DUP and Sinn Fein will carry next week's cross-community vote.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is due to vote on the devolution of policing and justice.

Mr McGuinness said he was confident it would be carried even without the support of the other parties.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the DUP and Sinn Fein have the numbers to pass this resolution," he said.

In recent weeks, the DUP had indicated it may vote against the deal if the Ulster Unionists refuse to support it.

The party had said this was because there would not be the necessary community confidence.

The Ulster Unionists have indicated that they will not vote for the deal until, "outstanding issues" surrounding education are resolved.

But on Thursday, the first minister, Peter Robinson, said he "did not detect any level of concern" from any section of the community about the structures which were being proposed.

Asked if he no longer needed the support of the Ulster Unionists, the DUP leader said he still had to talk to his party executive on Monday.

But, he said the feedback they had received and the polling they had carried out indicates they have a package which completed devolution and allowed them to get on with the other business of government.

On Wednesday, the NI Secretary of State warned if MLAs rejected the devolution of policing and justice an extra £800m of government cash would not be available.

The money was set aside last year by the government as part of an additional budget for devolution.

It was set aside to cover areas such as hearing loss claims, equal pay and the building of a new police college.

'Craven weakness'

Speaking to MPs in Westminster, Shaun Woodward said MLAs should think about that when they vote next week.

He said that if the assembly collapsed because of a political stalemate over policing and justice the public would not forgive them.

Earlier, the SDLP MP Mark Durkan accused the DUP leadership of "craven weakness" over the Hillsborough Castle Agreement.

He said Mr Robinson had given the Ulster Unionist Party a veto over the issue.

Mr Durkan also said that by "demanding" Ulster Unionists support the deal, the DUP were using the UUP as a "political human shield".

He claimed Mr Robinson had put himself in a "nonsensical position".

The Foyle MP said the SDLP would support the vote even though they had reservations about plans to make the Alliance Party leader, David Ford, justice minister.

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