Poll: Devolved police powers backed
Pressure is mounting on the Ulster Unionists to drop their opposition to the landmark deal to devolve policing powers to the North after a new government poll indicated sizeable public support for the move.
Three quarters of people in the region wanted law and order functions transferred to Stormont, according to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) survey.
The suggested 75pc endorsement for the transfer of security responsibilities to the power-sharing administration is higher than the support (71pc) for the historic Good Friday Agreement in the 1998 referendum in the region.
The results were published hours after the UUP restated its intention to oppose the devolution at a crucial vote in the Assembly tomorrow.
Significantly, out of those people polled who considered themselves as UUP voters, 73pc said they wanted to see the powers transferred.
While Sinn Fein and the DUP have the electoral strength to push through the so-called Hillsborough Agreement when it is put to the vote at Parliament Buildings, a rejection from the UUP will deprive them of the unanimous support they crave.
The UUP will make a final decision on whether or not to back the move at a meeting of the party's executive tonight. But a change of heart looked unlikely after party leader Sir Reg Empey said nothing substantive had been done to assuage his concerns about the accord.
He remained steadfast in his stance despite forthright criticism from the DUP and Sinn Fein over the weekend and an intervention by the pro-deal US administration in the shape of phone call from secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
It remains to be seen if the poll findings will prompt a rethink.
The UUP claims the Stormont government needs to demonstrate an ability to address other unresolved matters - such as the uncertainty over education reforms - before it can be trusted with security powers.