Published: Sat, January 11, 2020

Sinn Fein backing paves way for new N.Ireland devolved government

Sinn Fein backing paves way for new N.Ireland devolved government

A compromise deal was drafted by the British and Irish governments late Thursday after several days of talks in Belfast involving Northern Ireland's five main political parties.

"There is absolutely no doubt that there are serious challenges ahead but the most significant challenge will be ensuring we have genuine power-sharing based on equality". That requires everyone to step up.

Friday's deal includes financial support from the United Kingdom for big infrastructure projects if the government is restored, as well as proposals to deal with the status of the Irish language.

Mr Smith has already indicated that if no agreed deal is in place by next Monday, 13 January, he may call fresh Assembly elections.

Sinn Féin said it had made a decision to re-enter power-sharing institutions in Belfast and nominate ministers to the devolved government.

As the plan for a new shared government came together Thursday, Democratic Unionist Party Leader Arlene Foster said, "This is not a ideal deal and there are elements within it which we recognize are the product of long negotiations and represent compromise outcomes".

With the deal in hand, the Northern Ireland Assembly will meet on Saturday, according to the DUP's Gordon Lyons.

Under the terms of the deal, the new executive will also take action to reduce spiralling hospital waiting times, extend payments for benefit claimants and increase the number of police officers. Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the agreement as a "great step forwards" for "restoring public confidence in stable devolved Government".

Thursday marks three years exactly since devolution collapsed in Northern Ireland.

Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney hailed it as a momentous breakthrough.

In the December U.K. elections, both the DUP and Sinn Fein lost political ground slightly after their votes dropped by more than 5% each but they remained the two major parties.

Irish republican Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald (C) speaks flanked by deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (CR) and other colleagues.

The so-called "Cash for Ash" scandal - which could cost up to £500million of taxpayer money - came when then-first minister Arlene Foster was criticised for failing to introduce proper cost controls.

The DUP has expressed a willingness to legislate to protect the language, but only as part of broader culture laws that also include the Ulster Scots tradition. There has also been anger over a nursing strike in Northern Ireland.

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