Politics explained

Why was the Northern Ireland government suspended – and why has it now been restored?

For the past three years, both main parties calculated that it was in their interest to appear unyielding. But that approach has done neither of them much good, says John Rentoul

Saturday 11 January 2020 17:12
DUP leader Arlene Foster on the night of the general election
DUP leader Arlene Foster on the night of the general election

One of Tony Blair’s historic achievements was to secure the Belfast Agreement in 1998 that allowed Northern Ireland to govern itself and put an end to decades of sectarian violence.

It took another nine years of negotiations for the institutions of devolved government finally to start work in 2007: a remarkable partnership between Sinn Fein, which wants a united Ireland, and the Democratic Unionist Party, the fiercest defenders of Northern Ireland as part of the UK.

That partnership was hard to maintain, and the Northern Ireland executive was dissolved three years ago in a dispute between the two parties following the “cash-for-ash” scandal of misused subsidies for a renewable energy scheme.

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