Northern Ireland: Draft powersharing deal tabled in bid to restore Stormont

House speaker asked to recall assembly, without DUP or Sinn Fein having agreed to proposals

Chiara Giordano
Friday 10 January 2020 01:11
Powersharing could return to Northern Ireland

The UK and Irish governments have published a draft deal to restore a devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Secretary of state Julian Smith has asked the speaker of Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland assembly, to hold a sitting on Friday morning to see whether the parties will attend and sign up to it.

The move comes without the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) or Sinn Fein having publicly signalled a willingness to agree to the terms of the deal, entitled “New Decade, New Approach”.

Northern Ireland has not had a functioning elected government for the last three years, with power-sharing between the DUP and Sinn Fein having collapsed in January 2017.

Healthcare workers are expected to strike in the region on Friday.

But Mr Smith said there was a major financial package on offer from the government that would mean the strike would not go ahead if the parties restored the institutions.

He added: “We have had three years of talks, and there is finally a good deal on the table that all parties can support.”

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the deal was “filled with compromises” and urged people to tell politicians to take the opportunity.

He said: “It’s now time their politicians stepped up and fully represented their constituents. It’s time to show leadership and get back to power-sharing in Stormont.”

File photo of the parliament buildings on the Stormont Estate, the seat of the Northern Ireland assembly, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The deal represents the governments’ joint assessment of how long-standing stalemates on issues such as the Irish language can be resolved.

Mr Smith said: “We have got one chance to get this right, and I am under no doubt that everyone realises that this chance is now.

“There is no such thing as a perfect deal, and that is why parties have to make choices as to how they respond.

“This is the opportunity for people to take – the alternatives are not good.”

The impasse has focused on proposals for Irish language legislation, reform of a contentious Assembly voting mechanism and plans to make the institutions less susceptible to collapse in the future.

The parties had been working to a Monday deadline to restore the institutions.

Earlier, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP’s Westminster leader, said the party was not yet in a position to sign up to the proposals.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said her party was at Stormont to “do the business”, but stopped short of saying it was content with the governments’ deal.

On Monday, legislation to give civil servants extra powers to run the region’s troubled public services will expire and the UK government will assume a legal duty to call a fresh assembly election.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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