After a night of intense political activity NI parties are considering the details of the draft deal, including the compromises they will need to make in areas including culture and identity and petition of concern amongst others.
Notably, the focus of the needle is firmly on Sinn Fein’s response following the DUP leader’s positive statement which said that the document ‘represents compromise outcomes’.
As we await SF’s response, internal and external meetings across political parties have been on–going all morning with others yet to fully respond.
The document, entitled ‘New Decade New Approach’, published by the British and Irish governments (attached with synopsis below) sets out a framework for the restoration of the institutions including key areas for financial investment and a renewed Programme for Government. Infrastructure investment features prominently within the document.
The UK government has said that a financial package to immediately address funding challenges in areas including health and infrastructure will only be available if the Assembly is restored.
The governments want the parties back in the assembly later today or Saturday, and if there is no deal by 23:59 GMT on Monday, SoS, Julian Smith has a duty to call an election. Speaker Robin Newton has stated he will not recall the assembly until a cross–party agreement is gained.
We will learn soon whether or not this bold move by the British and Irish governments will be enough to restore the institutions which have now been suspended for three years.
See synopsis below;
new Executive will settle the on–going NHS pay dispute
a new action plan to tackle waiting times
900 new undergraduate places for nursing and midwifery
a new mental health action plan
Health and Social Care reform, implementing recommendations from reports
such as Power to the people
a new medical graduate campus at UU Magee
of teachers’ industrial action
sustainable core budget for every school
external review of education provision
new framework for special educational needs
new specialist group to examine links between socio–economic background
and educational performance
Trade and the Economy
- In response to Brexit, the
parties have recognised the need to invest in future of Northern Ireland
with a focus on sustainable productivity and trade
- Part of the strategy to boost
the economy will include the delivery of vital infrastructure projects
such as the York Street interchange project
- The Executive will take
advantage of the economic potential offered in the new ‘Cities’ deal for
Belfast and Derry/Londonderry
The new Executive will:
Executive will advance with plans to complete both the Regional and sub
Regional stadia programmes including Casement Park
expanded capital infrastructure funding as part of the Westminster
infrastructure improvement initiative
new funding to develop a range of capital projects such as A5/A6 roads,
Improved connection of Dublin and Belfast, York Street interchange and
Energy and Climate Change
Within the agreement, a commitment has been made to develop a new energy strategy.
The new strategy will be orientated around climate change, it will set ambitious targets and measures for a fair and just transition to a zero–carbon society
The parties have recognised the need for a coordinated and strategic approach to address climate change, the new Executive will:
new strategy to address the immediate and long–term impacts of climate
new assembly will introduce legislation and targets for reducing carbon
emissions following the Paris climate change accord
forward a new climate change act to give a legal underpinning to
Executive will establish an Independent Environmental Protection Agency to
oversee this work and ensure targets are met.
will be closed down and replaced by a scheme that effectively cuts carbon
Executive will create a plan to eliminate plastic pollution
Petition of concern
The parties have addressed the Petition of Concern mechanism, key amendments below:
will ensure the mechanism returns to its original purpose, protecting
commitment has been made to use the petition as a last resort
will need cross–party support (Independents included) but the function can
still be initiated with the support of 30 MLAs
Culture and Traditions
A key issue in the failure of previous talks, the new agreement will deliver:
Commissioners to focus on the development of language, arts and literature
for the Irish, Ulster–Scots and Ulster British tradition
recognition of both Irish and Ulster Scots as languages
new office of identity and cultural expression to celebrate all aspects of
Northern Ireland’s cultural heritage
The new Executive will support Northern Ireland in hosting of further world–class events like the 2019 Open Championship and using reformation of licensing laws to support this strategy.
Alcohol has been referenced in the agreement; the following actions will be taken:
commitment to bring forward the reform of licensing laws
of new phase 2 strategic plan on Alcohol and Drugs
agreement recognises the needs of Border communities especially concerning
Government is continuing preparations for Brexit–mitigation actions under
Budget 2020 and targeted funding for the sectors most affected in the
event of a no–deal Brexit
- The Irish
Government has introduced a wide range of support programmes for
enterprise and the agri–food sector, including the €300 million Brexit
Loan Scheme, the €300 million Future Growth Loan Scheme, Enterprise
Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard, Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer, and
InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Vouchers.
- By introducing legislation to
reclassify housing associations, the Executive will enable housing
associations to continue building new social housing and intermediate
housing, including the Co–ownership Housing Scheme after March 2020.
- Housing will be included as a
specific priority in the Programme for Government. The Executive will also
enhance investment and agree a target for new social and affordable home
starts and tackle the maintenance backlog for Northern Ireland Housing
- The Executive will examine
options to remove historical debt from the NI Housing Executive and
exclude it from having to pay Corporation Tax, and set a long–term
trajectory for the rental charges for NI Housing Executive homes which is
sustainable and is affordable to tenants.
The Executive will extend the welfare mitigation measures in Northern Ireland beyond March 2020 when they are due to expire.