Stormont back in business after months of deadlock

Northern Ireland's devolved government emerged from five months of suspended political animation yesterday with the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein resuming their seats around the cabinet table.

The ruling executive got back to business following the announcement by First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, of a measure of agreement on policing and justice.

The tone of the encounter was markedly constructive, with both sides emphasising the need to address a series of mostly economic issues. The credit crunch took up more than half of the meeting, which lasted three and a half hours.

The principal source of disagreement has been over the transferring of policing and justice powers to the Belfast executive. The DUP and Sinn Fein agreed in principle that powers should be transferred but the DUP favoured a longer timetable, arguing that time was necessary to build more public confidence.

The two parties also objected to the idea of the other holding the justice post. In particular the DUP was dead against the possibility of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly, a one-time IRA jail-breaker, taking over policing.

There was also an impasse over a series of lesser issues, such as education, the status of the Irish language and the future of the Maze prison.

While these remain unresolved, yesterday's negotiations produced an agreed document containing a road-map with more than 30 points, leading towards policing devolution.

It lays out a path, involving six groups of actions, towards the transfer of powers, including legislation in both London and Belfast. It had already been agreed that for some time neither Sinn Fein nor the DUP will hold the justice post.

Since the document does not contain an actual deadline for the transfer of powers there have been claims that during the negotiations Sinn Fein fared less well than the DUP. The general sense, however, is that it is in essence a reasonable compromise.

The stand-off has been a trial of strength between the parties. Mr Robinson replaced Ian Paisley as First Minister in June, and republicans were clearly intent on demonstrating that he will not dominate them.

Yesterday's message, delivered amicably by Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness, was that normal political business has now been resumed. The pace will in fact be stepped up, with extra meetings of the executive scheduled to deal with the backlog.

The parties have put a joint request to Gordon Brown to provide Northern Ireland with more money. They met him in Downing Street on Wednesday, and reported yesterday that he had agreed to £900m of additional funds.

Their emphasis on economic matters, and a co-operative approach, was stressed when they jointly opened a production plant in Belfast yesterday.

Saying that he believed problems had been resolved, Mr McGuinness said: "We've had our difficulties... but I believe we have resolved them to the satisfaction of both parties."

Mr Robinson said: "There was support from all for the work that we had done in securing the arrangements with the Prime Minister and Treasury, which perhaps takes some of the pressure off as we move on to the next stage of the credit crunch."

In particular, ministers claimed credit for achieving a further deferment of the introduction of water charges in Northern Ireland.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape