Robinson refuses to commit to timetable on policing transfer

First Minister Peter Robinson has refused to be committed to a timetable for the transfer of policing and justice powers to Stormont.

Mr. Robinson was speaking in Derry on Friday as he accompanied his party's Euro candidate Diane Dodds on a visit to the city.

As they greeted shoppers at Lisnagelvin, he was asked about the comments of the Deputy First Minister that big decisions would have to be made after the Euro elections on the transfer of policing and justice powers.

He said: "Well, there are a lot of big decisions to be made before, during and after the European election and not just the issue that might be foremost in the mind of the Deputy First Minister.

"Clearly it is important that we get the issue of policing and justice right and that means we have to have the confidence of the community in the devolution of those functions. We also have to have the funding in place. It would be entirely wrong for us to have those powers devolved unless the money was there for us to do the job properly and negotiations with the Treasury and the Prime Minister will continue to make sure we get that right."

He was asked how long did he think the negotiations will continue: "Until we get the right answers," he replied.

Pressed for a possible timetable, he added: "If you start putting time limits then you give the opportunity to the Treasury to be able to simply play for time on the issue and I'm not going to do that."

Asked what progress he thought had been made since the historic agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein, he said: "Well, I think anybody who looks at the position of Northern Ireland over the past decade will recognise that there has been very significant progress and a very great difference made to the lives of the people of Northern Ireland. Many things have taken place that simply wouldn't have happened had there not been devolution - many improvements to the lives of the people of Northern Ireland and, indeed, from a Unionist point of view, there are many things that would have happened that we have been able to stop because of devolution. The fact that two years on and devolution is still in place is, in itself, an achievement."

Asked about his working relationship with the Deputy First Minister, Mr. Robinson said: "I think that everybody knows the past is not hidden. We saw the action of the Deputy First Minister standing with the Chief Constable after the murders of the two soldiers and a policeman calling for support to be given to the PSNI and asking for people to pass information on. That's exactly what we expect of elected representatives and I think again people will see that as a sea change in the way republicans now act."

He added: "We are elected by different sections of the community to do business, that's what I do, I think we are sufficiently mature to do that without acrimony. If we have difficulties, we express those difficulties and that's the only way you are going to resolve them - to talk over the issues to see if there's a way through."