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Johnson hails ‘wonderful compromise’ of powersharing during Stormont visit

The Prime Minister said healthcare would be a priority for investment from central government as part of the deal to restore the institutions.

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Powersharing is set to return to Northern Ireland (PressEye/PA)

Powersharing is set to return to Northern Ireland (PressEye/PA)

Powersharing is set to return to Northern Ireland (PressEye/PA)

The Prime Minister has hailed the “wonderful” compromise that triggered the return of powersharing in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson praised politicians who “put aside their differences, stepped up to the plate and showed leadership” in reaching last week’s deal.

He said healthcare would be a priority for “huge” investment commitments from central government.

The Prime Minister met the new first and deputy first ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, at Stormont on Monday.

He said: “Never mind the hand of history on my shoulder… I see the hand of the future beckoning us all forward.

“And I hope that with goodwill and compromise and hard work on all sides it will be a very bright future indeed.”

The parties sealed an accord restoring the devolved institutions following a three-year suspension which has seen public services like health and education suffer.

“I want to say how grateful I am to all the parties and everybody here in Northern Ireland for the way they have compromised and the way they have worked together to get Stormont up and running again,” Mr Johnson said.

“It’s shown a willingness to trust each other and to set aside difference and I think it’s absolutely commendable and wonderful to see.

“Now is the chance for the Government, the Executive and the Assembly of Northern Ireland to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland and to deliver on the priorities of the people, and that is, above all, improving healthcare, making sure we have fantastic schools and making sure our streets are safe.”

He stood by the Conservatives’ General Election manifesto pledge to protect armed forces veterans from the 30-year conflict from unfair prosecutions without new evidence.

The Prime Minister said the Stormont parties had done a good job balancing that with giving confidence to victims of violence who are seeking answers.

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Boris Johnson speaking in Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Liam McBurney/PA)

Boris Johnson speaking in Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson speaking in Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said it is vital that public spending is properly monitored to ensure no repeat of the botched and overspending green energy scheme that caused the Stormont collapse three years ago.

He acknowledged there could be checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea that were destined for the Republic of Ireland as a result of Brexit, but insisted a deal with Brussels could mean they are not necessary.

Ahead of Mr Johnson’s arrival, a Stormont minister said he expected the Government to deliver at least £2 billion to support the powersharing deal.

The UK Government made a series of financial promises as part of efforts to get the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement over the line.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, who helped broker it, pledged major investment to alleviate problems in the region’s struggling public services, but declined to confirm the sums involved.

Mr Johnson said: “We are, in the UK Government, making huge commitments which will be passed through, obviously, the Barnett consequentials, to Northern Ireland in healthcare.

“I have heard the arguments made to me this morning. We are listening very carefully and we will certainly do everything we can to support.”

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister had meetings with the Prime Minister and the Irish premier around the financial package needed to support the deal.

Mrs Foster said the meetings were “constructive” and ruled out imposing water charges as a revenue-raising measure.

She added: “He (Boris Johnson) must deliver. We have stepped up to the plate in relation to the political agreement.

“He put forward an agreement, he asked us to sign up to it. We have all signed up to it and come into a multi-party executive, therefore it is now incumbent on the Prime Minister to step up to the plate in relation to financial resources.

“We need significant and sustained investment, not just this year but over a number of years.

“This is crucial in ensuring transformation in areas such as health and also our road and water infrastructures.”

Ms O’Neill stressed the importance of delivering the funding.

She said: “All Executive ministers are committed to working together to tackle some very serious issues in our society and across public services. But, quite simply, we need the money to make it happen.

“We have done our bit and I look forward to the fulfilment of the commitments made by the two governments to let us get to work.”

PA