Friday, 26 March 2010

The cost of justice

NORTHERN Ireland’s future Attorney General needs more staff than his Scottish equivalent and he’ll sit at meetings of the Executive: so says the man who many believe will land the job, John Larkin QC.

A report from the Attorney General designate, lodged in the Assembly said the budget needed for the Attorney General’s office should be £1.3m.

Given the past record in Northern Ireland of legal challenges, judicial reviews and legal cases against 11 departments and a plethora of next step agencies, it could be regarded as cheap at half the price. Okay, the QC didn’t actually use those words but as they say in parts of Belfast: “You get me drift big lad!”

The highly regarded Mr Larkin is well known to the political elites, having represented Peter Robinson, Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley.

Mr Larkin’s report came hot on the heels of an Assembly Supply Resolution on Policing and Justice, in which many members commended work such as that of the Youth Justice Agency.

The apparatus is beginning to be put in place that will see the devolving Policing and Justice ready for the off in a few short weeks.

But what of the Minister? David Ford is the man widely thought to be shoe in for the job. But the SDLP has put forward Alban Maginnis for the post. And, he might even get UUP backing when it comes down to the vote in the Assembly on the Justice post.

The UUP and SDLP have not said they, at any time, will not co-operate with the new structures, but is this the first tentative steps towards taking a pseudo-opposition stance?

When the bean counters and political anoraks scour the counting tables come election time, will an alliance without Alliance create an opposition before the 2011 Assembly election? Probably not, but maybe by then the ‘unofficial opposition’ will resign their ministerial seats….sorry we were straying into the realms of fantasy there for a few short moments.

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