DUP and Sinn Fein agree deal to restore powersharing government in Northern Ireland after three-year deadlock

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BORIS Johnson last night hailed a historic deal to restore power-sharing government in Northern Ireland after three years of political deadlock.

The DUP and Sinn Fein agreed to restart the devolved administration at Stormont in Belfast.

The Stormont Assembly could open as early as today, DUP boss Arlene Foster said last night
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said the deal provided a ‘basis to restore power-sharing’

The Stormont Assembly could open as early as today, DUP boss Arlene Foster said last night.

A new first and deputy first minister could also be elected today – expected to be Ms Foster and Sinn Feins Vice President Michelle ONeill.

The DUP and Sinn Fein signed up to an 11th hour deal put forward jointly by the UK and Irish governments to restore power-sharing. The 50-page New Decade, New Approach deal was designed to heap pressure on the two parties to finally end the impasse before Mondays crunch deadline.

Last night the PM tweeted: This is a great step forwards for the people of Northern Ireland and for restoring public confidence in stable devolved Government and delivering much needed reforms to public services.

Fresh elections would have been triggered if the parties had failed to agree a deal by Monday.

Northern Irelands peace process dictates that the executive can only function with the inclusion of the largest unionist party and the largest nationalist party, which is currently the DUP and Sinn Fein.

In a dramatic development last night, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said the deal provided a basis to restore power-sharing.

She said: We’re up for that. There’s no doubt there are serious challenges ahead; the impact of Brexit, austerity and other pressing issues.

“But the biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring we have genuine power sharing build on equality, respect and integrity.

‘GENUINE POWERSHARING’

“I believe that the powersharing government can work. That requires everyone to step up. Sinn Fein’s commitment is to do all in our power to make this happen.”

It followed a similar announcement by the DUP leader 24 hours earlier, minutes after the Governments proposals were published.

The New Decade, New Approach agreement contains a raft of compromise solutions to the vexed disputes at the heart of the 36-month power-sharing impasse.

They included plans for new laws to protect Irish language speakers – a key demand of Sinn Feins.

But central to the breakthrough was an offer from the UK Government to pump billions of pounds into Northern Irelands creaking public services and infrastructure. The money was dependent on the two sides agreeing a deal.

And Mr Johnson also offered a new compromise on Brexit, promising new legislation to guarantee Northern Ireland firms have unfettered access to the rest of the UK after Brexit.

That was aimed at easing fierce opposition among unionists to the PMs Brexit deal, which proposes putting a customs border down the Irish Sea as part of the blueprint to avoid the return of a hard border with Ireland.

The agreement could also save the career of Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, who was pivotal in securing the breakthrough.

He was previously tipped to be sacked as part of Mr Johnsons reshuffle next month but the deal has bolstered his credentials and he could even be in line for a promotion.

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