PM and Taoiseach to meet leaders of power-sharing executive

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Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar are set to meet the leaders of Northern Ireland’s restored power-sharing executive on a visit to Belfast.

The prime minister and Taoiseach will hold talks with DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at Stormont on Monday.

It comes in the wake of the landmark deal, tabled by the UK and Irish governments, to restore the devolved institutions following three years of political deadlock in the region.

At the talks, Mr Johnson can expect to face questions on the financial promises the government made as part of efforts to get the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement over the line.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith pledged major investment to alleviate problems with the region’s struggling public services, however declined to confirm the sums involved until a deal was done.

Additionally, the Irish government made financial pledges within the agreement to honour commitments to part-fund some north/south projects, such as the A5 dual carriageway and a redevelopment of the Ulster canal system.

The discussions at Stormont will focus on how the executive intended to take forward “critical reforms” to public services, Mr Johnson explained.

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“This is an historic time for the people of Northern Ireland,” he said ahead of the visit.

“After three years, Stormont is open for business again with an executive who can now move forward with improving people’s lives and delivering for all communities in Northern Ireland.”

The prime minister continued: “I look forward to meeting with the new executive and hearing about their plans for the future – including driving forward much needed reforms to public services and resolving the current health strike.

“The next decade will be an incredible time of opportunity for Northern Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom as we come together to unleash the potential of our four nations.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre), and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (R)
Image: Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre), and deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (R)

When announcing Sinn Fein had agreed to back the deal to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland, Ms McDonald said the “biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring we have genuine power sharing build on equality, respect and integrity”.

She added Sinn Fein was “committed” to Irish reunification efforts and to make sure all people across the north and south divide enjoy the same rights.

Ministers will face a host of acute problems facing a public sector that has been floundering amid the 36-month governance vacuum.

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Under the terms of the new deal, the new executive will 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.

In 2017, the last DUP/Sinn Fein-led coalition government collapsed over a row about a botched green energy scheme.

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar to meet leaders of power-sharing executive in Belfast

News reporter @luciabinding Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar are set to meet the leaders of Northern Ireland’s restored power-sharing executive on a visit to Belfast. The prime minister and Taoiseach will hold talks with DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at Stormont on Monday.

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