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Jeffrey Donaldson speaks to the media at Hinch Distillery, Northern Ireland, 30 Jan. Alamy Stock Photo
Powersharing

DUP backs deal that will see return of Stormont Assembly after two years of collapse

Donaldson made the announcement after 1am following hours of intensive talks by the DUP executive.

LAST UPDATE | 30 Jan

POWERSHARING IN NORTHERN Ireland is to return after the DUP announced that it has agreed to UK government proposals on changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

After more than five hours of intensive negotiations amongst the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) executive, leader Jeffrey Donaldson told reporters that a deal had been struck after 1am. 

He said that he was satisfied that real progress had been made on reducing the red tape created by post-Brexit trade barriers, which have caused divisions in political unionism, and have been characterised by the DUP and other parties as a threat to Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. 

Donaldson said that subject to the “binding commitments” negotiated between the UK Government and his party being fully implemented, including the passing of legislative measures in Westminster, the agreement struck “does provide a basis for our party to nominate members to the Northern Ireland executive, thus seeing the restoration of the locally elected institutions”. 

He added that the measures agreed to will “remove checks for goods moving within the UK and remaining in Northern Ireland and will end Northern Ireland automatically following future EU laws”. 

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio this morning, Donaldson said he wasn’t “going to get into the numbers” when asked how many members of the DUP executive backed the deal. 

He added that the proposals put forward by the UK government are to be published in full this morning.

The DUP’s last ditch attempt to reach a consensus was somewhat undermined by loyalist activist Jamie Bryson live tweeting the entire thing, with an apparent source feeding him information on what was being said in the room. 

This morning, Donaldson said that he expects people to work together within his party, and that he does not anticipate members leaving over this decision. 

He said that he has proved critics wrong who said a change to the Northern Ireland Protocol could not be achieved. 

Donaldson said that the date of Stormont’s return will depend on the timeline of the legislature measures the UK government will now have to set in motion. 

However, Donaldson said that what was reported on X, formerly Twitter, was not an accurate representation of the meeting, though he noted his disappointment that someone within the party may have been prepared to share the information. 

Protestors also gathered outside the Larchfield estate to voice their opposition to the short-notice meeting taking place inside. 

Some shouted at DUP members as they made their way into the venue for the negotiations.

Loyalists, the Orange Order, and the hardline Traditional Ulster Voice (TUV) party have all said that the deal on offer from the UK Government did not go far enough to restore the “Acts of Union”. 

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton Harris said that a deal being struck last night was a “welcome and significant step”. 

Sinn Féin is now set to take the First Minister seat in the Stormont Assembly for the first time in the history of the region’s devolved government.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has said that she is optimistic that Stormont will now return before the next deadline set by the UK parliament – 8 February. 

She said that her party will now engage with their counterparts and both the Irish and Uk governments to ensure the swift return of the Stormont Assembly. 

“It is vital there is political stability to address the scale of the crisis across our public services.

“Let’s now focus minds on the job at hand and on the solutions required to support workers and families who want and deserve functioning government,” she said. 

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has also welcomed the decision by the DUP, and said that the imminent return of the Stormont Assembly and Executive is “good news for the people of Northern Ireland, and the Good Friday Agreement”. 

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