Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Ulster Unionist vote decision wrong: Lord Kilclooney

Lord Kilclooney
Lord Kilclooney said the UUP was wrong to vote no in the justice powers vote

Former Stormont home affairs minister Lord Kilclooney has criticised the Ulster Unionists' refusal to endorse devolution of policing and justice.

On Tuesday, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to devolve the powers but the UUP voted against it.

Lord Kilclooney, a former MP and deputy leader of the Ulster Unionists, said he understood the party's concerns about other issues such as education.

However, he said they were wrong to link those issues to justice powers.

"Ulster Unionists have historically always been for the transfer of security and, more so, policing to Northern Ireland," he said.

"The late Brian Faulkner the prime minister (of Northern Ireland) said that devolution was useless at Stormont unless you had control of the policing and judicial system."

However, UUP assembly member David McNarry defended his party.

"Despite the fabricated pressures and alarmism mounted by a shambolic secretary of state, there was no crisis over the devolving of policing and justice," he said.

"Ulster Unionists took a united, principled stand against the Hillsborough funfair rollercoaster initiated by the DUP-Sinn Fein partnership."

Decades of strife

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the devolution of judicial powers marked the end of decades of strife in Northern Ireland.

Out of the 105 votes cast in the assembly, a total of 88 supported the move, with 17 against.

Mr Brown said the politics of progress had now replaced the politics of division.

"It sends the most powerful message to those who would return to violence: that democracy and tolerance will prevail," he said.

"The courage and leadership of the parties who voted to complete devolution at Stormont will be noted around the world."

Policing and justice powers will now be devolved after a 38-year gap. Lord Kilclooney, then John Taylor, was the last Northern Ireland minister to hold the powers.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown hailed the vote at Stormont

Disagreement on the timing of the devolution of the justice powers had threatened to collapse Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration.

In February, Northern Ireland's two main parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, reached an agreement which, now the vote has been passed, will see a justice minister elected.

The Hillsborough Agreement allows for the first and deputy first ministers to identify a candidate who would command cross-community support in the assembly.

As expected, the Ulster Unionist Party voted against the powers being devolved, however, Tuesday's motion received the necessary cross-community consent to be passed.

All 44 of the nationalist assembly members backed the vote, while 35 out of 52 unionists also supported it.

Nine other members, including the Alliance Party's MLAs, also voted in support of the powers being devolved.

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