Belfast Telegraph

New Stormont deal respects Irish and British identities, says DUP's Arlene Foster

By Eimear McGovern

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said a new deal to restore power-sharing at Stormont recognises there are people in Northern Ireland with an Irish identity and others with a British identity.

Mrs Foster said the deal was "not perfect" but that it is a way forward. She said it offered an "entirely different construct" to Irish language legislation that had been proposed previously.

"This is a deal that recognises that we live in a shared society, this is a deal that recognises that no one identity should be placed over another," she told BBC Radio Ulster.

Ms Foster added: "We are ready to go back into the Assembly.

"I'm not sure other parties are, but we will see where we are during the course of the day.

"I very much hope that the Assembly can meet as quickly as possible so that we can get back to do what we need to do and, indeed, get Northern Ireland moving again."

The DUP leadership has signed up to the two governments' deal to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

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Proposals were published on Thursday night to break the political deadlock that has been in place for three years.

Speaking to RTE on Friday morning, the Tanaiste Simon Coveney described deliberations on Thursday as the "end point" for Irish and British governments in "endless negotiation" with the parties to create a foundation document to form the basis of a new Executive.

"Now it's over to the parties and hopefully all five of them will decide they can commit to functioning government again.

"There is a strong commitment here to much more transparent and accountable government, strong ministerial codes, ministers held to account in a much more transparent way than in the past," he said.

"We have a package around making the institutions more sustainable this time to ensure that if they collapse because of a falling out between parties, that that doesn't trigger elections immediately and a whole series of mechanisms to ensure that they don't collapse in the first place. No one party will have a veto on legislation," he said.

Secretary of State Julian Smith said the deal will restore public confidence in devolved government and called on all parties to support it.

"This will take the nurses parity pay issue off the table, it will get the nurses back into work, this will deal with issues in education, childcare and across the public sector and today is the day that is the moment of truth," he said.

"There is no money coming unless the executive gets up and running," he said.

Mrs Foster said on Friday morning there was a need for the British government to be "generous" in respect of financial support that accompanied the deal.

She said she had spoken to Sinn Fein's Stormont leader about the deal and expressed hope that the Assembly sitting would go ahead.

"I spoke to Michelle last evening," she said.

"Of course, they will have to go through their own internal discussions and I respect that - I had to go through my internal discussions and, indeed, those discussions will continue during the day, and hopefully we can get to a place where we can have the executive up and running again."

A meeting has been called of the Sinn Fein leadership on Friday to deliberate on the proposals

Mary Lou McDonald TD said late on Thursday night that her party was "studying the text and will give it careful consideration".

The Assembly authorities have said Speaker Robin Newton will only reconvene a sitting if he receives an indication from the parties that a deal is in place to enable the formation of an executive.

"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," said an Assembly spokeswoman.

She added: "The Speaker recognises 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.

"If sufficient agreement is reached for this to be achieved, it only requires parties to inform the Speaker and request him to commence the process to call a sitting.

"The speed and timing of any sitting therefore depends entirely on when the Speaker hears positively from the parties."

The last DUP/Sinn Fein-led coalition government collapsed in January 2017 over a row about a botched green energy scheme.

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