Deal done, the work begins

Posted By: January 11, 2020

John Manley.Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, January 11, 2020

A new Stormont executive will be appointed today after the DUP and Sinn Féin backed the two governments’ New Decade, New Approach agreement.

MLAs will gather in the chamber at Parliament Buildings for the first time in three years to elect a first minister and deputy first minister alongside other executive ministers.

The DUP is expected to nominate Arlene Foster for the role she held for little over a year before the institutions collapsed in January 2017 at the height of public outcry over the RHI scandal.

Sinn Féin has confirmed that its nominee will be former health minister Michelle O’Neill, who became the party’s northern leader after the suspension.

The deal unveiled by the two governments on Thursday night includes a pledge to legislate on the Irish language and appoint an Irish language commissioner. There are similar measures for Unionists in the Agreement, designed to promote Ulster-Scots and British culture.

While an agreement between the parties has been widely welcomed, commentator and Irish News columnist Chris Donnelly warned that a different attitude to that which prevailed in the latter days of the last administration would be necessary if devolution is to be sustained.

“The last executive endured largely due to the strength of the personal and professional relationship that developed between Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster’s two predecessors, though confidence had begun to drain amongst nationalists while Peter Robinson was still at the helm,” he said.

“A unity of purpose is required, and that can only happen if there is trust founded upon a mutual belief that both main parties are committed to treat everyone equally in this society. Many will be watching closely to see if Arlene Foster’s party is capable of doing that.”