Deal sets out policing, justice and parade plans

THE 21-page Hillsborough Agreement sets out plans for devolving policing and justice powers, dealing with contentious loyal order parades and resolving outstanding issues facing the Stormont Executive.

Its main points include:

DEVOLUTION

- Powers to be devolved on April 12, following the formal passing of a resolution in the Assembly on March 9.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister will consider applications for the new Justice Minister on Monday. With neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin to nominate candidates, leader of the non-aligned Alliance Party David Ford is tipped for the role, which will be decided by cross-community vote in the Assembly.

- While the new minister will have the same status as all other ministers in the power-sharing Cabinet, he or she will have the ability to take certain urgent decisions without recourse to executive colleagues.

PARADING

- A six-member working group, appointed by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, will formulate a framework for new parade management procedures.

- Its work will place emphasis on allowing local people to find solutions to local parading problems, with the rights of marchers and residents taken into account.

- In instances when accommodation cannot be found, it is envisaged an adjudication panel made up of lay and legal representatives will rule.

- The Executive will transfer responsibilities for parading legislation from Westminster and table a new bill based on the working group’s proposals.

- The current Parades Commission will continue to adjudicate on contentious marches until the new framework comes into operation – expected at the end of 2010.

OTHER ISSUES

- An Executive working group will be set up to examine ways to improve the operation of the power-sharing Cabinet.

It is intended this will be co-chaired by Ulster Unionist leader and Employment Minister Reg Empey and SDLP Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie.

- DUP and Sinn Féin junior ministers Robin Newton and Gerry Kelly will chair another Executive working group to progress issues the Cabinet has so far failed to agree on. These include the stalled shake-up and restructuring of the education system.

- The First Minister and Deputy First Minister will conduct an exercise to address matters still outstanding from the 2006 St Andrew’s Agreement. These include legislative measures to protect the rights of Irish language speakers.


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