Policing and justice devolution moves one step closer, as the commander of the Northern Alliance sallies forth:
Alliance Party Council last night recommended that Leader David Ford can now nominate a candidate for Justice Minister. Party Council agreed that the two conditions which Alliance raised have now been met. Sinn Fein and the DUP have agreed on the community relations strategy and genuine progress has been made on agreeing a Justice Department policy programme.
Everyone expects that this candidate will be Fordy himself. He’s senior, he’s got a certain amount of gravitas, nobody doubts his ability and, most importantly, he’ll be able to command support in the required cross-community vote in the Assembly. By virtue of being the least offensive possible candidate, there’s no better man for the job.
And yet… Fordy? An Alliance man? A liberal? From listening to the pensioners on the bus, they don’t want a liberal in charge of policing. They want somebody who looks the part, somebody who you really believe is going to beat the crap out of the hoods. They want Dirty Harry. And, while Fordy has the inestimable advantage of not being Monica McWilliams, nobody would ever mistake him for Dirty Harry.
I think Sinn Féin have missed a trick here. It’s true that they forswore the job of justice minister, figuring that the prospect of Alex Maskey or Gerry Kelly in the post would cause unionists to have conniptions. But there’s nothing to stop them nominating someone from outside the party, and if a loophole could be found that would allow a nominee from outside the Assembly, that would provide an opportunity to advance all-Ireland politics. There’s a man in Limerick who’s between jobs right now, and his no-nonsense approach might be right up the DUP’s street…
Rud eile: Hot off the press, Eddie McGrady has finally announced his retirement. God knows, Margaret has been waiting long enough for a run at the South Down seat.