Ulster says 'yes' to devolution of policing powers
UUP holds out against historic deal
Ulster said an historic and overwhelming 'yes' to the devolution of police and justice powers from Westminster yesterday, with only the Ulster Unionist Party voting 'no'.
The DUP, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Party voted in favour of the motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly to steady the power-sharing government.
Of the 105 votes cast, 88 supported devolution with only the UUP voting against, and the result puts flesh on the Hillsborough Agreement secured by the DUP and Sinn Fein.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen was among the first to commend the parties in Northern Ireland for their historic decision. "I very much welcome the outcome of today's historic vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly on the devolution of justice and policing powers," said Mr Cowen.
"It copperfastens the Good Friday Agreement, the St Andrews Agreement and the transformation of policing in the North.
"This is a good day for the people of Northern Ireland and for everyone on this island. It is also a historic day. For the first time, we can look forward to policing and justice powers being exercised by democratic institutions on a cross-community basis in Northern Ireland," said Mr Cowen.
Peter Robinson, Democratic Unionist Party leader and First Minister said the UUP was seeking political advantage.
"Throughout history there has been times of challenge and defining moments," said Mr Robinson. "This is such a time. This is such a moment."
President Mary McAleese, who worked tirelessly with her husband, Martin, to help secure the deal, last night warmly welcomed the cross-community vote in the North.
"Today's vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly represents an eloquent statement of confidence in the political institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement," said President McAleese.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also welcomed the agreement last night, saying that the politics of progress have finally replaced the politics of division in Northern Ireland.
"The completion of devolution, supported by all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, is the final end to decades of strife," said Mr Brown.
"It sends the most powerful message to those who would return to violence: that democracy and tolerance will prevail.
"The courage and leadership of the parties who voted to complete devolution at Stormont will be noted around the world."
The UUP leader Reg Empey said the Executive should sort out rows over post-primary schools and other outstanding problems before it tackled the functions of law and order.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness challenged the UUP's opposition to devolution and said the Hillsborough Agreement provides an opportunity for a new start.