Northern Ireland news

Big on aspiration but sparse in detail on security

Simon Coveney and Julian Smith delivering the New Decade, New Approach deal.

Policing, legacy and a renewed effort to end paramilitarism are among the big security issues tackled in the New Decade, New Approach document.

However, while the hoped for deal is big on aspiration it's sparse in detail.

Both governments have agreed to support and fund the establishment of the Stormont House legacy proposals.

Legislation for the establishment of an Historical Investigations Unit, to take forward investigations into outstanding deaths from the Troubles, will need to be passed by Westminster.

It remains unclear whether MPs will back the legislation given this Conservative administration's promise to stop 'vexatious' investigations into veterans.

Any attempt at introducing an amnesty would be totally incomparable with the proposed mechanisms.

By way of a softener, there is a commitment to an Armed Services Covenant and the appointment of a Veterans Commissioner to support former soldiers.

This would free up much needed resources within the PSNI who have also been promised money for additional officers.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne gave his approval to the deal's publication.

"We welcome plans to reform and streamline our outdated criminal justice processes and also address the issue of legacy investigations which drain our focus on policing the issues of here and now", he said.

However, the Police Federation adopted a more cautious approach with chairman Mark Lindsay, saying they continued "to have serious reservations about legacy proposals and the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement which fails to address what the Federation believes is a bias against serving and former officers."

With the current review on future hate crime legislation out for public consultation, the deal has jumped ahead of that saying they wish to see sectarianism "given legal expression as a hate crime".

Ending sectarianism and paramilitarism also gets a mention, although there is little detail as to how this push will be any different or succeed when previous attempts to force paramilitary disbandment have failed.

What will be widely welcomed is the commitment to deliver necessary legislative change as proposed by Sir John Gillen in his review of the handling of serious sexual offence cases.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news