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Sinn Fein back Stormont deal and power sharing in Northern Ireland set to be restored

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Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has announced that the party has agreed to back a deal to restore power sharing at Stormont - a move that confirms the return of devolved government in Northern Ireland after a three-year absence.

With the DUP having already signalled its support for a draft deal proposed by the UK and Irish governments, the republican party's endorsement means the two parties will re-enter a mandatory coalition.

The wide-ranging deal, which was published by the governments on Thursday night, contains compromise solutions to the vexed disputes at the heart of the 36-month power sharing impasse, such as legislative provisions for Irish language speakers.

It also includes what the UK government has insisted will be a major Treasury-funded financial package to tackle a host of acute problems facing a public sector that has been floundering amid the governance vacuum.

That includes a high-profile industrial dispute in the health service which on Friday saw nurses again walk out on strike.

Under the terms of the deal, the new executive will also take action to reduce spiralling hospital waiting lists; extend mitigation payments for benefit claimants hit by welfare reforms; increase the number of police officers on the beat; and resolve an industrial dispute involving teachers.

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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 Hundreds of nurses protest outside Stormont on January 10, 2020. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Hundreds of nurses protest outside Stormont on January 10, 2020. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Getty Images

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JANUARY 10: Hundreds of nurses protest outside Stormont on January 10, 2020 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The healthcare workers are striking again today due to the crisis caused by unsafe staffing levels and pay disparity and the lack of a power sharing government to address these needs. It is three years since the power sharing executive government in the province collapsed, talks to restore the executive have been ongoing since the general election. The Secretary of State Julian Smith MP has said he will call an election if the parties can not reach an agreement by Monday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JANUARY 10: Hundreds of nurses protest outside Stormont on January 10, 2020 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The healthcare workers are striking again today due to the crisis caused by unsafe staffing levels and pay disparity and the lack of a power sharing government to address these needs. It is three years since the power sharing executive government in the province collapsed, talks to restore the executive have been ongoing since the general election. The Secretary of State Julian Smith MP has said he will call an election if the parties can not reach an agreement by Monday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting  John Watson, Chairman of the Board of Governors, left, and principal Graham Gault during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting John Watson, Chairman of the Board of Governors, left, and principal Graham Gault during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting principal Graham Gault during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting principal Graham Gault during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 -  

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th January 2020 - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is pictured meeting pupils during a visit to Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim this morning. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney (left) and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith issue a statement in Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney (left) and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith issue a statement in Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Hundreds of nurses protest outside Stormont on January 10, 2020. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

That row subsequently widened to take in more traditional wrangles on matters such as the Irish language and the thorny legacy of the Troubles.

Belfast Telegraph