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Northern Ireland

Governments set to make public draft deal to restore powersharing at Stormont

The five main parties in Northern Ireland will be urged to sign up to the document tabled by the UK and Irish governments.

foster DUP leader Arlene Foster PA Images PA Images

THE IRISH AND UK governments are set to make public a proposed deal to restore Stormont powersharing as they urge Northern Ireland’s politicians to sign up.

There is an expectation the document will be tabled to the parties at some point tomorrow. 

It is understood the proposals will then be published more widely, either tomorrow or later in the week.

The planned timetable had still to be confirmed this evening as Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith and Tánaiste Simon Coveney held talks to discuss the text.

They were expected to be involved in lengthy discussions through the evening.

Publishing a draft text prior to securing a deal among the Stormont parties would represent a new approach for political negotiations in Northern Ireland.

If the document is made public tomorrow, offering voters the chance to assess what compromises are on offer, it would coincide with the latest strike action by workers in Northern Ireland’s crisis-hit health service.

Nurses will be on the picket lines in an ongoing protest over pay and staffing shortages.

Proposed legislative protections for Irish language speakers and reform of a contentious Stormont voting mechanism called the petition of concern are the key issues at the heart of talks to restore powersharing three years after it imploded.

mla UUP MLA Robbie Butler UUP (right) speaking to the media with party colleague Andy Allen. Liam McBurney / PA Images Liam McBurney / PA Images / PA Images

DUP leader Arlene Foster said today that all the main Stormont parties were in the space where they wanted to deliver a deal.

Foster said her party stood ready to sign up to agreement, if “fair and balanced” resolutions to the outstanding issues were achieved.

“I do think a deal is possible,” she said. “It should be a deal, as I have said all along, that is fair and is balanced and I hope that is what we can achieve.”

Earlier today, Sinn Fein leadership briefed a packed meeting of party representatives on the state of negotiations.

Foster said once her party had sight of the governments’ text, she and colleagues would assess whether it addressed their concerns on the outstanding issues.

“I think everybody is in the space where they want to do a deal, let’s get down, let’s focus and make sure we do that deal,” she said.

Asked about reports of angry exchanges during a meeting of the party leaders yesterday she denied relations had deteriorated, and claimed things had been blown out of proportion by the media.

Foster also highlighted mental health as a “key priority” for the new executive.

“I hope that we can reflect that in the work that we do, if and when we get an executive back up and running again,” she added.

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