Tuesday, July 14, 2020 | ePaper

‘Historic time’ for N Ireland, Johnson says ahead of visit

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed "an historic time" for Northern Ireland ahead of a visit to the province on Monday to mark the reopening of its power-sharing government after three years of deadlock.



Boris Johnson has predicted "an incredible time" for Northern Ireland now that the region has a functioning power-sharing government again.
Prior to a trip to Belfast, the prime minister welcomed the historic deal that restored the cross-community coalition at Stormont..
Johnson will meet newly appointed First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during his trip to Belfast. "This is an historic time for the people of Northern Ireland," Johnson said in a statement ahead of his visit.
"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," he added. The devolved Northern Ireland assembly reopened on Saturday following three-years of political deadlock after rival pro-Irish republicans and pro-British unionist parties agreed to a new power-sharing deal with Brexit looming.
Democratic Unionist Party leader Foster was appointed as first minister, and effective head of government, while Republican Sinn Fein's O'Neill was elected as her deputy.
The region's devolved assembly at Stormont collapsed in January 2017 over a scandal caused by the runaway costs of a renewable energy scheme.
Its 90 members had since sat only for one-off sessions, with numerous rounds of acrimonious negotiations failing to reach a solution, leaving basic services unattended.
But they returned on Saturday after republicans and unionists struck a deal on Friday under the threat of a new regional election if they missed the latest deadline to reconvene on Monday.
At the core of the deal that resurrected the devolved power-sharing government was a plan by the British and Irish government to create two new "language commissioners" as part of a cultural policy to put Irish on the same legal par with English while protecting Ulster British culture.
Over the last three years Sinn Féin's key demand to re-enter coalition with the Democratic Unionists has been for a stand-alone Irish language act that would put Gaelic on an equal par to English.
Unionists have opposed such a move but, in a bid to address their concerns, the two governments drew up plans for "an Ulster British language commissioner dealing with Ulster Scots language and associated culture and heritage" as well as an Irish language commissioner.
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed "an historic time" for Northern Ireland ahead of a visit to the province on Monday to mark the reopening of its power-sharing government after three years of deadlock.

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