Northern Ireland Legislature Resumes as Deal Ends Deadlock

Clay Curtis
January 13, 2020

Northern Ireland is on track to restore its power-sharing institutions after the British and Irish governments tabled proposals to break a three-year deadlock.

Sinn Fein, the largest nationalist party, followed its rival, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), on Friday in backing a draft deal brokered by the Irish and British governments to end the devolved assembly's suspension.

"We now have a basis for power sharing and we're up for that", Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said, nearly three years to the day her party walked out, saying DUP was not treating it as an equal.

In the new deal, the Northern Irish assembly will decide four years after a transition period whether or not to keep the new customs arrangements.

Irish republican Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald (C) speaks flanked by deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (CR) and other colleagues.

"We now have a basis to restore power-sharing and we are up for that", she said, while cautioning that there will be a lot of hard work ahead.

McDonald said the politicians faced "serious challenges", including the impact of Brexit. That requires everyone to step up.

On this count it's really quite simple: the first minister will come from the largest party in the assembly and the deputy first minister will come from the second-largest party.

Three dead in Ionian migrant boat rescue: Greek coastguard
Another 73 persons were rescued in separate incidents in the Aegean between Friday and Saturday, the Greek coastguard added. The UN refugee agency recorded more than 55,000 arrivals by sea and more than 14,000 via the land border with Turkey.

'But the biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring we have genuine power-sharing built on equality, respect and integrity.

Northern Ireland has the longest waiting lists in the United Kingdom and is facing further strike action from NHS workers including nurses over a disparity in pay between them and their colleagues on the other side of the Irish Sea. That could potentially push Northern Ireland into a closer embrace with its southern neighbour, Ireland, so both the DUP and Sinn Fein want a say on what happens next.

The "New Decade, New Approach" deal will also be accompanied by what the UK Government has promised will be a major investment package.

The new executive is now set to address issues around benefits, welfare, policing, industrial disputes and increasing hospital waiting lists.

The Prime Minister hailed the move as a "momentous" one. He said in a statement that it "can now get on with the job of delivering much needed reforms to the health service, education and justice".

The Assembly members re-entered the devolved institutions at Parliament Buildings at lunchtime, following three years of political stalemate. We hope it may be possible that executive will be formed tomorrow, but if not tomorrow certainly Monday, and to build on the momentum that is being created in the past 24 hours so people can see positive political activity'.

For a while before the collapse of the coalition in 2017, there had been growing tensions between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Since then, there have also been issues over petitions of concern - a form of Stormont veto - and Sinn Fein's demand to officially recognise the Irish language.

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