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Friday 22 September 2017

'Give Belfast policing power'

Martin demands move to send 'clearest answer' to dissident republicans

Michael Brennan and Sam Smyth

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin called last night for the transfer of policing powers from London to Belfast to send the "clearest answer" to dissident repub-licans.

He was speaking amid increasing signs that the devolution of policing powers was imminent, after the attempted murder of a Catholic PSNI officer last week.

Mr Martin said the car bomb attack on Constable Peader Heffron, who is still in a critical condition, had been a sickening, callous and cowardly act by dissident republicans.

"We need political leadership that demonstrates that the new policing and justice arrangements that Constable Heffron is a symbol of are here today and have the full support of the whole community," he said.

Mr Martin held a meeting on the devolution issue last night in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin with Northern Secretary of State Shaun Woodward.

Push

He announced that Taoiseach Brian Cowen would be flying to meet British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Number 10 Downing Street tomorrow to give a further push to the negotiations.

Mr Woodward said he welcomed the opportunity to review the progress. He denied that the approaching general election in Britain and the North (which must be held by June 3) would make it harder for the DUP to agree to devolution for fear of being undermined by hardline unionist rivals.

"I remain optimistic we can find a way through these difficulties," he said.

Last night, Northern Ireland's main political parties expressed fresh hopes that a deal could be struck over devolving policing powers to Stormont.

Emerging from the latest round of negotiations, both Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists struck a more positive note following months of bitter wrangles over the move.

The devolution of powers has been held up by rows between the two parties over timing, with Sinn Fein threatening serious consequences for the fragile executive if the DUP did not agree to a speedy transfer.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams refused to elaborate on the details of the talks, but did hint that progress had been made.

"We believe that with political will these difficulties can be resolved," he said.

"These discussions, and it has to involve all of the parties, but particularly between ourselves and the DUP, are hugely important."

Irish Independent

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