Belfast Telegraph

Parts of draft agreement between DUP and Sinn Fein leaked

Parts of the draft agreement at the centre of negotiations between Sinn Fein and the DUP to restore Stormont has been leaked.

Two days after the breakdown of talks on February 14, Sinn Fein released documents it claimed showed the DUP walked away from a deal which would have included an Irish language act, an Ulster Scots and, and a respecting culture and diversity act, as well as accommodations on other issues.

Senior DUP MP Gregory Campbell subsequently said reports of a draft agreement between the two parties had been "utter nonsense", and his party would never agree to an Irish language act.

The draft version of the agreement text has been published on the website of broadcaster Eamonn Mallie.

The document obtained is 13 pages long with additional annexes.

"On page 5 under the heading: Respecting Languages and Culture, there is specific reference to the Irish ( Respecting Language and Diversity) Bill and the Ulster Scots ( Respecting Language and Diversity) Bill and a Respecting Language and Diversity Bill," Mr Mallie writes.

"It has to be stated that square brackets obtain in this eight-line paragraph – meaning it had not yet been signed off and agreed.

"The document spells out that draft legislation is in an annex."

Mr Mallie also says the document includes a condition that the process sees the three bills introduced before the Assembly concurrently.

He also reports having "definitive proof" that senior Sinn Fein and DUP personnel were corresponding under the heading 'Draft Agreement Text' on February 9.

Alliance Party MLA Kellie Armstrong called for an independent mediator between the parties.

"An independent mediator for the talks would eliminate the 'he said, she said' approach, while also injecting a fresh impetus to the overall process and allowing a more inclusive process which gives the public confidence people are working on their behalf to get the institutions restored," she said.

Northern Ireland has been without a regional government since January 2017, when Stormont was collapsed in a dispute over a botched green energy scheme.

On Tuesday, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley made a statement in the Commons on the ongoing impasse in Northern Ireland, declining to immediately reimpose direct rule and saying she intended to take steps to "provide clarity on the budget".

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