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'Broad agreement' reached in Stormont talks as politicians take selfies and listen to Serial

Talks on welfare reform, flags, parades and the past continued through the night.

Updated 4.10pm

PEYE 221214KB3 0012 Source: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

A BROAD AGREEMENT has been brokered between Northern Ireland’s politicians who’ve been seeking a deal on a range of issues affecting the power-sharing administration.

The talks on welfare reform, flags, parades and the past have continued for the past 12 weeks including the past 30 hours at Stormont House. Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had set a firm deadline of today for an agreement to be reached.

In a statement a short time ago, the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said a “broad agreement” was reached and said this covers the four main issues.

Here are some of the main points of the Stormont House Agreement:

  • The Northern Executive has secured a spending package to the value of almost €2 billion from the UK government. 
  • A final balanced budget for 2015/16 needs to be agreed by the Executive next month and it most also agree to adopt a comprehensive programme of public sector reform and restructuring. 
  • Welfare changes will begin to be implemented by 2015/16 and completed by the following financial year. 
  • Legislation will be introduced to enable the devolution of corporation tax to NI in April 2017. 

A commission is to be set up as “way forward” on the issues of flags, identity, culture and tradition, Flanagan said.

A comprehensive framework for dealing with the “corrosive legacy of the past” has also been laid out.

“This framework includes an oral history archive; a dedicated Historical Investigations Unit which will investigate Troubles-related deaths; and an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval to enable victims and survivors to seek and receive information about the death of their loved ones,” Flanagan explained.

BBC News reported that the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson said he would be recommending the agreement to the Democratic Unionist Party’s executive.

The Ulster Unionist Party’s Mike Nesbitt said that he would ask his party to give the proposals “a fair wind” while saying no party was able to agree a 100 per cent endorsement.

As the talks progressed earlier politicians were tweeting during breaks in meetings with Sinn Féin MLA and NI First Minister Martin McGuinness tweeting this:

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams followed up with this version of the selfie:

On a more serious note, the Ulster Unionist MLA was not optimistic as dawn broke over Stormont earlier:

Yesterday, the British Prime Minister David Cameron made an offer of £1.5 billion in loans and grants over the next decade following a request for £2 billion package from the Northern Executive.

While the UK has improved it’s latest financial offer it was not keen to write off £214 million in fines levied on the Executive because of delays in implementing reforms introduced in the rest of the UK nearly three years ago.

The BBC’s Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport had earlier said that the main sticking point was how to deal with the legacy of the past and in particular the remit of agencies being set up to deal with historical issues.

The millions of pounds in grants and loans over the next decade had been conditional on a deal being reached on outstanding legacy issues.

The Irish government’s Minister of State for North-South Cooperation, Seán Sherlock, who is involved in the talks, had some compelling listening to do in between meetings:

While others, such as Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly, were finding some odd places to sleep:

First published 7.37am

Read: “Substantial progress” in Northern Ireland talks – but Adams not confident they’ll wrap up soon

No deal: Enda and Cameron leave talks after ‘amateurish ham-fisted episode’

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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