Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 8 August 2020

Pleas for Northern Ireland’s government to be restored as main parties mull new deal

The DUP indicated it will back the draft proposals while Sinn Fein said they would consider them

Parliament Buildings, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, is pictured on the Stormont Estate in Belfast. AFP
Parliament Buildings, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, is pictured on the Stormont Estate in Belfast. AFP

Politicians from the main parties in Northern Ireland were set to meet on Friday to decide whether to accept a deal, which would see the Northern Ireland Assembly and executive restored.

Three years ago, the power-sharing government in Stormont, Belfast collapsed over a scandal involving a green-energy project.

So far, attempts to bring back the pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists had failed to break the deadlock with both sides blaming each other for leaving Northern Ireland’s 1.8 million people without a functioning administration.

But on Thursday evening, the pro-British DUP said it believed that a draft deal published by the British and Irish governments could see power-sharing revived.

In a statement, the DUP leader’s Arlene Foster that on balance there "is a basis upon which the Assembly and Executive can be re-established in a fair and balanced way."

"This is not a perfect deal and there are elements within it which we recognise represent compromise outcomes."

While Sinn Fein, the largest nationalist party, which withdrew from the government in January 2017, said it would convene its leadership to assess the draft deal.

Some of the disagreements over the past few years have included provision for the Irish language and a controversial mechanism which gave minority movements the power to veto legislation.

The deal includes proposals to “protect and enhance” the Irish language and reform of one party’s power to veto legislation.

Julian Smith, the British government’s Northern Ireland Secretary, said that he would ask the assembly’s speaker to reconvene the legislature so that politicians could back the deal.

“Now is decision time,” he said. “We have had three years of talks and there is finally a good deal on the table that all parties can support.”

His comments were echoed by Ireland’s Foreign Minister who urged parties to accept the agreement.

"There is no such thing as a perfect deal in a situation like this," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told a news conference.

"There will be reasons in this deal for every party, if they want to find them, to be uncomfortable, to be negative and to look for excuses not to be part of this executive but we would ask all parties to find reasons to be part of it.

The UK’s impending exit from the European Union has increased urgency on restoring the assembly as the Brexit withdrawal agreement gives Stormont the right every four years to consider whether to maintain alignment with EU market rules.

Updated: January 10, 2020 04:48 PM

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