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Sinn Fein backs deal to restore powersharing to NI

by Ace Damon
Sinn Fein backs deal to restore powersharing to NI

Today´s Deals

Sinn Fein has agreed to support a deal to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland, ending a three-year stalemate.

The nationalist party signed the deal after closing talks with the DUP this week.

The latest development means that the Assembly will be able to attend later Friday, although Saturday may be more realistic.

Sinn Fein's endorsement means that the two parties will rejoin a binding coalition in Belfast.

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The structures of the peace process mean that a ministerial executive can only function by including the largest trade union party and the largest nationalist party in the region.

Making the announcement on Friday, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said: "Now we have the foundation to restore power sharing, and we are ready for it.

"There is no doubt that there are serious challenges ahead; the impact of Brexit, austerity and other pressing issues.

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Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Fein (center), and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (R)

"But the biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring that we have a genuine sharing of power based on equality, respect and integrity.

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"I believe the power-sharing government can work. It requires everyone to step up.

She added that Sinn Fein is "committed" to Irish reunification efforts and to ensure that all people in the north and south have the same rights.

Stormont
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Sinn Fein's support means power sharing has returned to Stormont

Sky senior correspondent in Ireland David Blevins says he believes three things have made this deal possible today.

He said: "First, the fact that the DUP lost its political influence in Westminster after the last general election.

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"The fact that DUP and Sinn Fein were punished in that general election.

David Blevins, Sky Senior Correspondent in Ireland
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David Blevins, Sky senior correspondent in Ireland at Stormont

"The DUP lost 1 in 6 voters – Sinn Fein lost 1 in 4, while the middle parties, especially the Alliance more than doubled their share of votes – and this was seen by many as a public judgment by the electorate of the failure. these big parties in restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland.

"But I think the most decisive issue was that there was a major health crisis in Northern Ireland.

"We had nurses on the striking picket lines today, for the third time in a month.

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Thousands of NI nurses on strike over salaries
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Thousands of NI nurses on strike over salaries

"Therefore, public patience with the political vacuum and lack of political progress has been exhausted – and as a result, the two big parties have been brought back to the negotiating table.

"They did the serious business they used to engage in during the peace process of settling a deal.

"And last night, the British and Irish governments took the calculated risk of presenting what they described as a draft agreement – their best hope of seeing power sharing restored in Northern Ireland after a three-year break."

Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn
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Jeremy Corbyn tweeted his congratulations after the draft agreement was agreed

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Boris Johnson tweeted to say "This is a big step forward for the people of Northern Ireland."

This is a big step forward for the people of Northern Ireland and for restoring public confidence in a stable and deconcentrated government and delivering much-needed reforms to public services.

– Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 10, 2020

Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn posted his congratulations, saying that the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland peace process "are a proud legacy of the work we are committed to supporting and protecting."

I congratulate those in Northern Ireland who have worked to reach an agreement to allow the return to power sharing in Stormont.

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The Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland peace process are a proud labor legacy that we are committed to supporting and protecting.

– Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) January 10, 2020

Minutes after the text of government proposals was published on Thursday, DUP leader Arlene Foster said she supported the draft agreement, saying it represented a "fair and balanced way" to restore energy sharing – but that "was not a perfect deal".

Arlene Foster accepted that the general election had created a "moment."
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DUP leader Arlene Foster said "it's not a perfect deal"

The comprehensive agreement includes compromise solutions to disputes at the heart of the three-year stalemate, such as legislative provisions for Irish-speaking speakers.

Sinn Fein's president insisted that the "New Decade, New Approach" deal was just the beginning, predicting that more gains for the language would come in the future.

McDonald also urged those disappointed with the provisions outlined in the agreement that "… are encouraged by the fact that now is a historic moment, because for the first time we have official recognition."

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald spoke to the media in Stormont
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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald spoke to the media in Stormont

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said "the story was made" today, adding that an executive could be formed on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin after Sinn Fein backed the deal, he added: "Of course this is not the end of the story, because we want this to be an executive of all parties, so I hope the Alliance Party and the SDLP will also be able to join Sinn Fein and DUP in this new executive.

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Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (left) and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith outside Stormont
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Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (E) and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith outside Stormont on Thursday

"We hope it will be possible for the executive to be formed tomorrow, but if not tomorrow, certainly Monday and to take advantage of the momentum being created over the last 24 hours so that people can see positive political activities.

"People working together, by example and positive, show that politics in Northern Ireland can be a force for good and bring people together."

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Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said: "A deconcentrated government can now begin to make the necessary reforms in our public services.

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"After three years, it's time to get back to work – for the people of Northern Ireland."

The deal includes what the UK government has promised to be a large Treasury-funded financial package to tackle a range of problems since negotiations began 36 months ago, including nurses' strikes.

Under the terms of the deal, the new executive will also take steps to reduce spiraling hospital waiting lists; extend mitigation payments to benefit seekers hit by welfare reforms; increase the number of police on the streets; and resolve an industrial dispute involving teachers.

The resignation of former Deputy Prime Minister Martin McGuinness three years ago caused Stormont's deconcentrated institutions to collapse.

Martin McGuinness discusses his withdrawal from Northern Ireland policy spotlight
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Martin McGuinness died in March 2017 at 66

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The last DUP / Sinn Fein-led coalition government broke down in January 2017 after a fight over a damaged green power scheme.

Subsequently, the dispute grew to include more traditional disagreements on issues such as the Irish language and the thorny legacy of problems.

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