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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

A fresh start? There's a new deal in town but nobody wants to talk about 'the past'

Those two words are still causing problems.

Image: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

AFTER 10 WEEKS of talking, there’s a deal in Northern Ireland that should allow the Stormont Executive get back to work, but there’s still no agreement about how to deal with the past.

Today’s deal is called ‘A Fresh Start for Northern Ireland’ and runs to almost 70 pages.

In it, the UK government pledges an extra £500 million (€715 million) to the NI executive over the next five years. 

The Irish government is also promising €107 million in funding to help with the upgrade of the A5 motorway between Monaghan and Derry.

The Irish government had previously agreed to part-fund the project as part of efforts to improve connectivity in the north west. Today, an increase has been announced that will see the funding spent between 2017 and 2019.

Crucially, efforts to make Northern Ireland a direct competitor with the Republic in attracting foreign direct investment have been boosted.

The deal sees Northern Ireland being given the green light to set its own corporation tax rate and reduce it to 12.5% by April 2018. The rate is the same as that which applies in the 26 counties.

Ongoing issues about paramilitarism were also addressed in the document with all sides agreeing to work together to “rid society of all forms of paramilitary activity”.

A new task force involving gardaí, the PSNI and revenue officials from both sides of the border is also to be set up to help deal with cross-border crime. Additional financial resources will be committed to help set up this body.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said that this will challenge “paramilitary attempts to control communities”.

“A strategy to achieve this will be put in place and an international body will be established to report on the achievement of progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland,” he added.

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Despite agreement being reached on a range of issues, there was no comprehensive deal made on new bodies to deal with issues relating to the past and the victims of violence.

The deal is supported by the DUP and Sinn Féin, with the other parties now to decide whether or not they can back it.

A previous agreement last year called the Stromont House Agreement fell on changes to Northern Ireland’s welfare system.

Subsequent negotiations were compromised by a number of murders in Belfast connected to republicans and the PSNI’s assessment that the Provisional IRA remains in existence.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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