Stormont: Power sharing restored in Northern Ireland Assembly

11 January 2020, 14:26

Arlene Foster of the DUP leads her party into the chamber at Stormont
Arlene Foster of the DUP leads her party into the chamber at Stormont. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The DUP and Sinn Fein have re-entered Stormont after almost three years of deadlock.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has been appointed as Northern Ireland's first minister, while Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill is deputy first minister.

It comes after both parties agreed to support a deal to restore Stormont's political institutions.

The power sharing coalition had been in deadlock after collapsing in January 2017.

Speaking in the parliament, Arlene Foster spoke about the differences that have plagued the two parties.

She said: "Michelle's narrative of the past 40 years could not be more different to mine."

"I'm not sure we will ever agree on much about the past, but we can agree there was too much suffering, and that we cannot allow society to drift backwards and allow division to grow."

She also acknowledged that it is time for "Stormont to move forward".

Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein leads her party into the chamber at Stormont
Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein leads her party into the chamber at Stormont. Picture: PA
Naomi Long, Leader of the Alliance Party and new Justice Minister
Naomi Long, Leader of the Alliance Party and new Justice Minister. Picture: PA

Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill said: "I see no contradiction in declaring and delivering on our firm commitment to power sharing with unionism in the Stormont Assembly while also initiating a mature and inclusive debate about new political arrangements which examine Ireland's future beyond Brexit.

"Similarly, there is no contradiction in unionism working the existing constitutional arrangements while taking its rightful place in the conversation about what a new Ireland would look like.

"We can do this while maintaining our independent distinct political identities and working in the best interests of all of the people."

She also said that she hopes "2020 brings real change".

All five main parties in Northern Ireland - the DUP, Sinn Féin, Alliance, SDLP and UUP - have joined the executive.

The first item of business at Stormont on Saturday was to elect Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey as the assembly's new speaker.

Alliance Leader Naomi Long has been appointed as Justice Minister, saying she was "honoured to have the support of both sides".

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