Power-sharing could return to Northern Ireland after draft Stormont deal published
The power-sharing executive at Stormont could finally be restored after a new draft deal was published by the Irish and UK governments.
The joint declaration came exactly three years after the Northern Ireland Assembly last sat.
The document contains promises extra cash for the province and the creation of two “language commissioners” in a bid to remove barriers that have blocked previous attempts to revive the Assembly.
Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith and Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney urged the five main parties in the province to sign up to the deal, entitled New Decade, New Approach, and reconvene Stormont on Friday.
Speaking outside Stormont on Thursday night, Mr Smith said: "Now is decision time. We have had three years of talks, finally there is a good deal on the table that all parties can support and on that basis I have tonight written to the speaker of this Assembly and asked him to recall it tomorrow to enable the restoration of the executive before the weekend.
"I urge all parties to come here tomorrow and serve the people of Northern Ireland."
Mr Coveney said: ”It's now time their politicians stepped up and fully represented their constituents.
"It's time to show leadership and get back to power-sharing in Stormont.”
He added: “I want to urge all political leaders and their teams to grab this opportunity and get back to work in a multi-party executive.
"Forget the language of win or lose - this is a deal filed with compromises.
"They are fair compromises but, most importantly, they are compromises in the interests of all of the people in Northern Ireland."
The last coalition government between the DUP and Sinn Fein collapsed in January 2017 amid a row over a green energy scheme.
Repeated attempts to get the executive back up and running have stalled over Sinn Fein demands over the Irish language and the legacy of the Troubles.
The DUP reacted positively to the new document’s attempts to solve those issues.
Their leader Arlene Foster said: "On balance we believe there is a basis upon which the Assembly and Executive can (be) re-established in a fair and balanced way."
She added: "This is not a perfect deal and 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.”
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said: "We are studying the text and will give it careful consideration."