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Theresa Villiers: Let's build on hard-won Stormont deal

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Significant challenges still lie ahead for Northern Ireland's political leaders, Theresa Villiers has warned.

In a New Year message, the Northern Ireland Secretary said she hoped 2015 would be a year of "renewed confidence" but urged politicians to capitalise on the opportunities created by the new Stormont House Agreement.

Ms Villiers said: "I hope this is a year of renewed confidence for Northern Ireland: a year when politics works, the economy continues to grow and society gets stronger and more united, a place where through hard work and commitment, everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential.

"While there are significant challenges ahead, Northern Ireland's politicians showed real leadership and determination in negotiating the Stormont House Agreement. As a result, new opportunities await us in 2015 which I hope are grasped."

The Stormont House Agreement was forged after 11 weeks of talks culminating in a marathon 30-hour negotiation which ended on December 23.

It has resolved destabilising wrangles over the Stormont administration's budget and welfare reforms while establishing new structures to deal with the legacy of unsolved Troubles killings, but the deal achieved less progress on other contentious matters such as disputes over the flying of flags and parading.

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