Sinn Féin to re-enter power-sharing in Northern Ireland

Posted By: January 10, 2020

Mary Lou McDonald said the party is ‘ready to do business’ and get back to work
Freya McClements, Vivienne Clarke, Jennifer Bray.Irish Times. Dublin. Friday, January 10, 2020
Sinn Fein’s Ard Comhairle has taken the decision to re-enter the power-sharing institutions and to nominate ministers to the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland, the party’s president Mary Lou McDonald has told reporters at a press conference in Parliament Buildings.

Mary Lou McDonald told reporters that it was the “responsibility of every party to ensure the Executive meets”.

She said she did not have a time or a day for the Executive to meet, but that Sinn Féin was “anxious we get to work as soon as possible”.

She said the party was “ready to do business” and was ready to go back into the Executive and to make its nominations for first and deputy first ministers, and that the party was doing this “on the basis that now we rebuild complete power-sharing.”

She said believed all of the North’s parties should now enter the Executive…..”



Varadkar appeals to North’s parties to ‘come on board’ and agree on deal

DUP says ‘there is a basis upon which Stormont can be re-established in fair and balanced way’

Freya McClements, Vivienne Clarke, Jennifer Bray. Irish Times. Dublin. Friday, January 12, 2020

The North’s Assembly could sit in the coming days if Northern Ireland’s political parties agree to a draft deal to restore powersharing.

The Irish and British governments published a draft text on Thursday night which would form the basis for the restoration of the Northern Executive.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the talks process was “at a very sensitive point”

“I was on the phone to the president of Sinn Féin this morning, spoke to the leaders of the SDLP and Alliance in the last couple of days, and in regular contact with the Tánaiste.

“So, I think there is a real chance that today or if not by Monday, we can have the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive back up and running again,” Mr Varadkar told reporters at a Fine Gael event in Dublin on Friday.

“I’d really appeal to all of the parties now to sign up to the agreement, to come on board, to have the assembly meeting again to have the Executive up and running and crucially to have the North-South ministerial Council, operating again, so we can press ahead with those are really important North-South cross-Border projects like the A5 road to Derry and Letterkenny like the Ulster canal, the cross-Border greenways , upgrading the train line between Dublin and Belfast, building University in Derry and tying that in with Letterkenny, and also cross-Border co-operation around health.

End point for governments

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said last night’s publication was the “end point” for the two governments of the “endless negotiations” with the parties.

“Hopefully all five parties will commit to having a functioning government again. The deal is now the deal, the parties have to make a decision. If they are looking for the positives, there are more than enough to back it,” he said told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.


Mr Coveney warned that time is running out and if a deal is not in place “time will run out on Monday” and there will be elections in Northern Ireland.

The North’s Secretary of State Julian Smith has repeatedly said that if the Assembly is not restored by Monday he will call a fresh election.

However the focus, Mr Coveney said, “is to get Stormont up and running today.”

The North’s Speaker, Robin Newton, is ready to call a sitting of the Assembly today if the parties request it. On Thursday, Mr Smith said he had written to Mr Newton, asking him to recall the Assembly on Friday so that devolution could be restored before the weekend.

However, in a statement issued on Friday morning, a spokesperson for the Assembly said the Speaker had previously made clear that the recall of the Assembly could only happen at the request of politicians.

“While the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has requested that the Speaker call a sitting of the Assembly, the process of doing so remains one for the Speaker to undertake in consultation with the parties.”

The “speed and timing” of this, the spokesperson said, “depends entirely on when the Speaker hears positively from the parties.”

“The Speaker recognizes the significant efforts that are continuing to be made by all parties to enable a sitting of the Assembly to be held as soon as possible to elect a new Speaker and appoint ministers.

What is in the new Stormont deal?

Secretary of State Julian Smith holds the “New Decade, New Approach” document outside Stormont last night


Michael McHugh, PA. Irish News. Belfast. Friday, January 10, 2020


A central translation hub to provide Irish language services in government is to be established as part of the proposed Stormont deal.


The devolved administration’s nine departments and associated bodies will avail of a unit allowing use of Irish and Ulster Scots.


Business at the assembly may be conducted in both languages as well as English, with a simultaneous translation system as seen in the EU institutions.


An office of identity and cultural expression to promote respect for diversity, build social cohesion and reconciliation and support all aspects of cultural and linguistic heritage will be established.


An Irish language Commissioner will recognize, support, protect and enhance its development and provide official recognition of its status.


The Commissioner will develop best practice standards for usage of Irish within public bodies. Those standards would have to be approved by both the DUP and Sinn Féin in any new executive.


A commissioner on the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition will enhance and develop the language, arts and literature associated with it and provide official recognition for its status.


The lengthy impasse on the language issue revolved around whether provisions for the Irish language would be enacted as a stand-alone Act or as part of a broader piece of legislation.


The governments have proposed to do it by amending the 1998 Northern Ireland Act with three separate Bills – one specifically dedicated to provisions for the Irish language.


The Petition of Concern, introduced following the 1998 peace accord to protect minority rights but later used to block change such as same-sex marriage, will be “reduced and returned to its intended purpose”.


The text said: “The parties will publicly commit to taking or supporting petitions of concern only in the most exceptional circumstances and as a last resort, having used every other available mechanism.”


The threshold for its triggering will remain at 30 assembly members but will need the support of two or more parties.


Parties would agree that a three-year absence of devolved government cannot happen again and create a package of measures to deliver more sustainable and resilient institutions during periods of political difficulty.


That includes a party leaders’ forum, a sub-committee of the ministerial executive on Brexit and measures strengthening the ability of opposition parties to hold ministers to account.


If political tensions in future threaten breakdown of the institutions, the agreement provides for a longer 24-week period before an assembly election must be called. Ministers will remain in office in a caretaker capacity.


The collapse of the assembly was caused by Sinn Féin concerns over how the DUP operated the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.


Under the deal, ministers’ responsibility for their special advisers would be strengthened, details of their meetings with external organisations would be published as well as information about gifts and hospitality enjoyed by special advisers.


Requirements for record-keeping and protections for whistleblowers would be strengthened.


The accountability of ministers to the assembly and the need for its scrutiny committees to be provided with information would be made clear.


Priorities for new ministers, as widely envisaged, will include immediately settling the nurses’ pay dispute which has caused strike action and paralysed some services, reconfiguring hospitals, and delivering extra nursing and midwifery undergraduate places.


It will also address problems such as mental health, alcohol and drugs abuse, and tackle cancer.


A stalled plan for graduate entry medical school at Magee College in Derry will go ahead.


The executive would also commit to fund three cycles of IVF.


The new ministerial executive is also pledged to address resourcing pressures in schools and resolve the teachers’ industrial dispute.


The deal would see the extension of Stormont-funded mitigation payments for those affected by welfare reforms. The payments are currently due to expire in March.


Police numbers would increase to 7,500 under the terms of the agreement.


There would also be reforms to speed up the criminal justice system.


The deal would see the British government introduce legislation to implement stalled mechanisms to deal with toxic legacy of the Troubles within 100 days.


Legislation to further implement the Armed Forces Covenant would be introduced and a Veterans’ Commissioner for the north will be appointed.


The military covenant was introduced in Britain in 2000 and is a UK government promise to look after former members of the armed forces and their families.