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UK and Irish governments publish proposed deal to restore powersharing in North

The tánaiste and secretary of state for Northern Ireland were speaking following days of intense talks.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Jan 9th 2020, 10:15 PM

THE IRISH AND UK Governments have published an outline deal to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland, and urged all the parties to sign up to it.

Speaking following days and nights of intensive talks, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith said it was an agreement that is “fair” and which involved a lot of compromise.

That deal will now be presented to each of the five main parties in Northern Ireland for consideration and comes exactly three years since the collapse of Stormont. 

“Today, the Irish and British government together are publishing a deal called ‘New Decade New Approach’, a deal to get the Assembly and Executive back to work in Stormont by the end of this week, ” Coveney said.

“What better way to kick of this new year than by closing the chapter on Stormont’s collapse and getting on to new business and new challenges.

The document you are receiving today is relatively short but the path to get us here has been longer than many people could have thought.

“And it has taken much longer than what the public could have reasonably expected. Both governments are confident that this document represents a fair and balanced deal to return an executive and an assembly.”

Proposals

In the proposed deal, there would be a “new cultural framework that will include a new Office for Identity and Cutlural Expression to promote cultural diversity and inclusion across all identities and culture”.

This would “protect and enhance the Irish language [with] a further Commissioner to develop the language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition in Northern Ireland”. 

This will be made law through an integrated package of legislation that will establish new parts of the Northern Ireland Act.

A statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: “There will be meaningful reform of the petition of concern bringing it closer to its original role, as conceived of the Good Friday Agreement and as a means of building consensus. It will not be a veto for any one party.”

‘Get back to work’

Coveney told the political parties in Northern Ireland to “grab this opportunity and get back to work” adding this is a deal “filled with compromises, they’re fair compromises.”

“There will be reason for every party if they want to find them to be uncomfortable, to be negative and to look for excuse not to be part of this executive,” he said. 

“There are many positive reasons in this deal for the parties to come into an all-party executive and work together.”

In a statement this evening, DUP leader Arlene Foster said representatives considered the paper “on balance we believe there is a basis upon which the Assembly and Executive can be re-established in a fair and balanced way”. 

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“This is not a perfect deal and there are elements within it which we recognise are the product of long negotiations and represent compromise outcomes.   There will always need to be give and take.

Tweet by @DUP Source: DUP/Twitter

“I value people who cherish their Irish identity,” she said. 

“I want them to feel at home in Northern Ireland.  I do not want them to feel second class citizens but equally I do not want people, like me, who are British to feel uncomfortable celebrating their Britishness.  The way forward must be about facilitation rather than imposition.”

A statement from Sinn Féin said the party will meet tomorrow and consider the details of the proposal.

Coveney also spoke of the death of journalist Lyra McKee during the press conference this evening, saying: “I think it’s important to remember the awful murder of Lyra McKee that brought us back to talks nine months ago”. 

With reporting from Cónal Thomas and PA

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