Jack Quann
Jack Quann

06.52 10 Jan 2020


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Northern Ireland's Stormont Assembly is to be recalled on Friday, after the Irish and British Governments tabled a deal aimed at restoring power-sharing there.

The executive collapsed three years ago after a row over a botched renewable energy scheme.

The two largest parties, Sinn Féin and the DUP, have been locked in talks this week.

Speaking on Thursday in Belfast, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said: "We have worked tirelessly through some extremely complicated issues."

He urged "all political leaders and their teams to grab this opportunity and get back to work" and he said the deal is "filled with compromises" which are fair and in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

Endorsing the deal, he added: "The past three years have been difficult... we need to move on."

The UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, said he believed "there is something in this new deal for everyone".

He continued: "Earlier tonight, I spoke to the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson and he and I agreed that the document that we have published here tonight - the result of many months of hard work by the the two governments - represents a fair and balanced deal for all the citizens of Northern Ireland.

"This deal means that the assembly here, can get back up and running tomorrow (Friday).

"It means that nurses, who have been on strike for the first time in 103 years can achieve pay parity.

"But more than this, it guarantees that the Good Friday Agreement, signed over 20 years ago, is protected and is respected."

Read the full text of the agreement here

The resignation of the late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness three years ago triggered the collapse of the devolved institutions at Stormont and endless rounds of talks have failed to resolve differences.

Both the UK and Irish governments had outlined their proposals to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland to the DUP and Sinn Féin.

Stormont Tánaiste Simon Coveney (right) and UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith issue a statement outside Stormont Parliament buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland | Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the deal represents a "fair and balanced way" to restore powersharing - but added that it was "not a perfect deal".

She continued: "There are elements within it which we recognise are the product of long negotiations and represent compromise outcomes. There will always need to be give and take."

Sinn Féin has said its ruling council will meet on Friday to consider the deal.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said: "The governments have chosen to publish this text which we have received in the last hour.

"We are studying the text and will give it careful consideration.

"The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle will meet tomorrow to fully assess it."

Coveney: Irish language to be recognised in Northern Ireland for the first time

Proposed legislative protections for Irish language speakers and reform of a contentious Stormont voting mechanism - called the Petition of Concern - have been the crucial sticking points in the most recent talks process, which got under way following the UK general election last month.

Sinn Féin has previously demanded a stand-alone Irish Language Act as a prerequisite of any deal to restore devolution.

The DUP has expressed a willingness to legislate to protect the language, but only as part of broader culture laws which also include the Ulster-Scots tradition.

The long-running row has boiled down to whether new laws are contained in a stand-alone bill or as part of a wider piece of legislation.

As part of the deal, a new Office for Identity and Cultural Expression will be set up to promote cultural diversity and inclusion across all identities and cultures.

This would be alongside a commissioner to protect and enhance the Irish language, and a further commissioner to develop the language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition in Northern Ireland.

Ongoing strikes by health workers in the region have added pressure on leaders to return to a devolved assembly.

Thousands of nurses stood on picket lines at hospitals across Northern Ireland on Wednesday, amid a dispute over pay and staffing shortages.

Additional reporting: IRN


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Boris Johnson British Governments DUP Fair Deal Good Friday Agreement Irish Irish Language Act Julian Smith Northern Ireland Power Sharing Simon Coveney Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly Talks

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