Stormont: Governments publish draft deal

9 January 2020, 23:34 | Updated: 9 January 2020, 23:38

Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney (left) and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith
Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney (left) and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith. Picture: PA
Sylvia De Luca

By Sylvia De Luca

The UK and Irish governments have published a draft deal to restore Stormont, three years after devolution collapsed.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said there was "finally a good deal on the table that all parties can support".

The Assembly will be recalled on Friday to see if the parties will sign up to the draft deal entitled New Decade, New Approach.

The two largest parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, have been locked in talks this week.

The DUP has signalled support for the deal that aims to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Party leader Arlene Foster said it represented a basis to re-establish the devolved institutions in a "fair and balanced way".

Sinn Fein, the other party whose buy-in is a must, has called a meeting of its ruling council on Friday to deliberate on the proposals to resolve long running wrangles on issues such as the Irish language.

The party's president Mary Lou McDonald said: "We are studying the text and will give it careful consideration."

A statement was issued outside the Stormont Parliament buildings in Belfast
A statement was issued outside the Stormont Parliament buildings in Belfast. Picture: PA

If Friday goes as the governments intend it, Northern Ireland could finally have a new government, three years after the last DUP/Sinn Fein-led coalition collapsed.

In 2017 devolved institutions at Stormont collapsed after the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness, and endless rounds of talks since then have failed to resolve differences.

Now is decision time," said Julian Smith.

"We have had three years of talks, finally there is good deal on the table that all parties can support and on that basis I have tonight written to the speaker of this Assembly and asked him to recall it tomorrow to enable the restoration of the executive before the weekend.

"I urge all parties to come here tomorrow and serve the people of Northern Ireland."

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the deal was "filled with compromises".

It's now time their politicians stepped up and fully represented their constituents," he said.

"It's time to show leadership and get back to powersharing in Stormont."

Mr Smith stressed that the deal guarantees that the Good Friday Agreement, signed over 20 years ago.

Friday is also due to see a strike by healthcare workers in the region.

But the secretary of state said accepting the deal would bring about the parties' commitment to immediately ending ongoing industrial action by healthcare staff - as it includes a new action plan on waiting times and delivering reforms on health and social care.

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