Northern Ireland Power Sharing Set to Resume After Deal

(Bloomberg) --

Northern Irish power sharing is set to resume after its biggest political parties agreed a deal to break a three-year deadlock which paralyzed decision making in the troubled region.

The nationalist pro-Irish party, Sinn Fein, agreed to re-enter the assembly and executive on Friday in Belfast, accepting proposals tabled by the U.K. and Irish governments. The pro-British Democratic Unionist Party has already endorsed the plans to restart the institutions, which collapsed in February 2017 over a renewable energy initiative that spiraled far over-budget.

“It’s been a long, hard road, but we got there,” Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said in an interview with RTE radio. “It’s a day of hope.”

The assembly and executive are key pieces of the architecture of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal, which largely ended three decades of violence in the region. Known as Stormont, the assembly could yet play a central role in shaping the outcome of Brexit.

The European Union and U.K. struck a deal which effectively leaves Northern Ireland in the EU’s custom union and much of the single market to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. However, the assembly will regularly vote on the arrangement, with the first ballot set for four years after the end of the transition period.

The deadlock was broken by the British and Irish governments, who pledged to give include more weight to the Irish language and extra cash to Northern Ireland.

The U.K.’s Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith, said in a statement Thursday that it’s a “moment of truth” for the peace process, and that the proposals are “a fair and balanced deal.”

In the 2017 assembly election, unionist parties took 39 seats, while nationalists won the same number. The middle ground Alliance party took 8 seats, and the Greens 1.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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