In Depth

Can new deal restore devolved government in Northern Ireland?

Irish and British governments reveal draft of agreement to end three years of deadlock

The British and Irish governments have published a draft deal aimed at ending three years of deadlock in Northern Ireland.

It is hoped that the agreement, entitled New Decade, New Approach, can restore devolved government as early as today.

Secretary of State Julian Smith and Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney announced the details of the document at a press conference at Stormont last night.

Smith has urged all parties to support the deal, saying: “Now is decision time, there is something in this deal for everyone.”

Coveney said: “We have worked tirelessly through some extremely complicated issues,” adding: "The past three years have been difficult... we need to move on.”

The document, shown to Northern Ireland’s political parties, includes promises of extra cash for the region and the creation of two “language commissioners” to remove barriers that have blocked previous attempts to revive power sharing.

The Belfast Telegraph says the deal brings “fresh hope”. The Guardian says the move appears to have “produced a breakthrough following three years of political deadlock”.

The BBC says “if the deal is done, the UK government is promising a large cash injection”, but adds that the “financial annex in the draft deal does not mention any specific figures”.

The Democratic Unionist party leader, Arlene Foster, said: “On balance, we believe there is a basis upon which the [Northern Ireland] assembly and executive can be re-established in a fair and balanced way.”

The former first minister added: “This is not a perfect deal… there are elements within it which we recognise are the product of long negotiations and represent compromise outcomes. There will always need to be give and take.”

As for Sinn Fein, the party’s key demand to re-enter coalition with the DUP had been for a stand-alone Irish Language Act which would put Gaelic on an equal par with English.

President Mary Lou McDonald TD said her party was “studying the text and will give it careful consideration”.

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