Northern Executive and Assembly to be reinstated after parties reach deal
DUP, Sinn Féin give their backing to the British and Irish governments’ deal
The Northern parties, on the back of the British and Irish governments’ New Decade, New Approach proposals, are due at Stormont at lunchtime on Saturday to re-establish the Northern Executive and Assembly.
Three years after the collapse of the powersharing institutions, the North’s two main parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, gave their backing to the British and Irish governments’ deal, paving the way for the restoration of Stormont.
The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described the decision to reinstate the institutions as a “lá stairiúil” – an historic day.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said some parts of the deal would be challenging for her party. “But overall and on the whole I feel that it’s a fair and balanced deal and that’s why we were able to recommend it (on Thursday night) to our party officers and to the elected representatives,” she added.
British prime minister Boris Johnson said the agreement was a “great step forward for the people of Northern Ireland and for restoring public confidence in stable devolved government and delivering much needed reforms to public services”.
The Assembly is scheduled to meet at 1pm on Saturday.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also announced that his party supported the deal and would re-enter the Northern Executive where it is entitled to one ministry.
The Ulster Unionist Party’s ruling executive is also meeting Saturday morning to decide whether to take up its single ministry in the Northern Executive.
There was still some doubt last night what would happen with the Alliance Party.
Under the d’Hondt system of appointing ministers, based on the strength of each party in the Assembly, the DUP is entitled to three departments, the Sinn Féin to two, with one each going to the SDLP and the UUP.
In addition there is the position of first minister and deputy first minister to be taken up respectively by DUP leader Ms Foster and Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill. Moreover, the DUP and Sinn Féin also are each entitled to one junior ministry.
The position of justice is disputed and does not come under the d’Hondt system. In the last Executive where the SDLP, the UUP and Alliance went into opposition the position went to independent unionist Claire Sugden while in the previous Executive it was held by former Alliance leader David Ford.
It is in the gift of the DUP and Sinn Féin who should be the justice Minister. Alliance sources said last night they had not been offered the post.
There were a number of robust disagreements during the negotiations, particularly, according to a number of sources, between Alliance leader Naomi Long and Ms Foster, raising some doubt as to whether Alliance will get justice.
One DUP source suggested there was still a question mark on the matter while other sources were adamant that Alliance would be offered justice and that Ms Long would be the minister.
Throughout Thursday night and Friday there were numerous statements of support for the agreement, reflecting the business, farming and civic desire to see local politicians deciding local matters.
And while all parties had some reservations about elements of the agreement they also seemed anxious to respond to that public demand for a deal.
As well as dealing with difficult matters such as the Irish language, the sustainability of a reformed Assembly and the petition of concern the British and Irish governments in their deal promise a major injection of financial support to address matters such as the health crisis, education, housing, infrastructure and building the Northern Ireland economy,