Belfast Telegraph

SF and DUP say they will restore faith in politics as Stormont Executive gets down to work

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (left) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O???Neill as they make their way to a press conference, to announce that nurses in Northern Ireland will receive a pay rise in a
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (left) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O???Neill as they make their way to a press conference, to announce that nurses in Northern Ireland will receive a pay rise in a "breakthrough" bid to end strike action which has paralysed the health service in Northern Ireland.
The new Executive
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

The new power-sharing Executive will rebuild the public's trust in local politics, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill have said.

The First and Deputy First Minister made the pledge as their ministers met for the first time and details of the parties' plans for office emerged.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's whistle-stop tour of Stormont on Monday, the Executive got down to work to discuss funding after signing the New Decade, New Approach deal at the weekend.

Speaking on Monday night, Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy said the funding offered by Mr Johnson's government fell "way short of what was needed".

However, on a more positive note, UUP Health Minister Robin Swann yesterday announced a £110m funding package designed to avert further crippling strikes by healthcare workers.

His announcement came as DUP Education Minister Peter Weir said 18 schools would be able to move ahead with building projects thanks to a £45million investment. Mr Weir said the money was part of the School Enhancement Programme, which supports refurbishment or extension projects valued between £500,000 and £4m.

Alliance Party Justice Minister Naomi Long, meanwhile, said she planned to develop an approach that "tackles the root causes of crime".

Elsewhere, SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said modern water, drainage and transport systems were "essential" components in growing Northern Ireland's economy.

Speaking after a meeting of the new Executive, Mrs Foster and Mrs O'Neill said in joint statement it was essential that the political parties got to work on implementing the priorities set out in the New Decade, New Approach document.

The DUP leader stressed that politicians from all parties were "energised and resolute" and wanted to move forward for the benefit of everyone.

"There are significant challenges ahead of us, but equally we have a real opportunity," Mrs Foster said.

"With strong leadership and collegiate working we will make sure that our public services are transformed. Through this new five-party Executive, based on mutual respect and trust, we can rebuild confidence in the Executive.

"We will do this by delivering on the things that matter to people in Northern Ireland, together."

Sinn Fein's northern leader Mrs O'Neill outlined the collective will among all parties to transform public services and deliver "desperately needed" improvements.

"This won't happen overnight. It will need a coordinated, sustained approach to bring lasting, positive change for all the people of the North," she said.

"Our immediate priorities will include dealing with the issues impacting the most vulnerable people.

"The extension of welfare reform mitigations, a plan to tackle waiting lists and the urgent publication of a mental health action plan will be among those pressing actions.

"Politics is never easy and being in a five-party Executive comes with its own set of unique challenges, but we have one shared purpose: to improve people's lives."

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