Cowen bids to end North's political impasse

The Irish Government tonight vowed to do everything it can to help resolve the long-running impasse regarding power-sharing in the North.

First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said his party was determined to break the deadlock on policing and justice, but Sinn Féin claimed unionists did not want nationalists in charge of the devolved powers.

The leaders of both parties today held separate meetings with Taoiseach Brian Cowen in Dublin on the contentious issue which forced the postponement of Executive meetings for several months.

Mr Robinson said after his meeting with Mr Cowen: “Unionists want to have policing and justice powers devolved, but with the right structures and the right people in charge.”

“There is a determination on my part and on the part of my colleagues to resolve outstanding issues and we will be doing everything we can to make the Assembly and the Executive work.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Sinn Féin had complied with its obligations on policing and justice under the St Andrews Agreement and the DUP had to fulfil its own obligations.

“There is a governmental responsibility for us to sort it out amongst ourselves. But if we can’t do it then there is the onus on the Taoiseach and the British prime minister to become involved,” he said.

But he warned: “There are still people within the political process who don’t want a nationalist or a republican or a Catholic hand on a particular lever of government and that is a huge mistake.

“For far too long in Northern Ireland we had a situation where the unionist political leaders regarded the police as their police.

“Those days are gone. We want to have a say in policing. We want to ensure that the people from our community regard the police as their police also. It is a big mistake for the DUP to engage in shenanigans which try to prevent that occurring.”

A Government spokesman said the talks also covered wider North/South relations and the possibilities for further cooperation in the face of the current global economic crisis.

It is understood the Finance Ministers from both jurisdictions will work more closely in coming months.

Mr McGuinness said: “We’re all very conscious that we’re living in a time of great economic difficulties and it’s very important to us on the island of Ireland that we have a joined-up approach on economic development.”

It was Mr Robinson’s first visit to Government Buildings in Dublin since he succeeded Ian Paisley as First Minister earlier this year.

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