Northern Ireland May See Power Shared Again as Deal in Sight
(Bloomberg) -- Northern Ireland is on track to restore its power-sharing institutions after the British and Irish governments tabled proposals to break a three-year deadlock.
The plans, which include giving more weight to the Irish language in the U.K. region and extra cash, represent the basis for a deal between pro-Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists to revive Northern Ireland’s executive and assembly, Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said.
“On balance we believe there is a basis upon which the Assembly and Executive can re-established in a fair and balanced way,” Foster said.
The assembly is set to be recalled on Friday, a development which could end a deadlock stretching back to February 2017, when it fell over who was to blame for a renewable energy initiative that spiraled far over-budget. The institution was a key piece of the architecture of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal, which largely ended three decades of violence in the region.
The Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party said it will study the new proposals before giving a formal response. A January 13 deadline for agreement remains in place, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Friday, with assembly members potentially facing fresh elections if a deal isn’t sealed by then.
“There is no need, and no public patience, for more process and more discussions,” Coveney said. “It is time for political leadership and a collective commitment to making politics work for people.”
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 have a vote on the arrangement, with the first ballot set for four years after the end of the transition period.
The U.K.’s Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith, said in a statement that it’s a “moment of truth” for the peace process, and that the proposals are “a fair and balanced deal.”
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