Stormont: Draft deal aims to break Northern Ireland deadlock

UK, Ireland publish draft agreement to restore power-sharing to devolved government ahead of Monday deadline.

    A gate is padlocked in front of Stormont Castle in Belfast, Northern Ireland [File: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]
    A gate is padlocked in front of Stormont Castle in Belfast, Northern Ireland [File: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

    The British and Irish governments urged all parties in Northern Ireland to sign up to a draft agreement published on Thursday to restore devolved government for the first time in three years, just before a deadline to strike a deal.

    Sinn Fein, the largest nationalist party, withdrew from the power-sharing government in January 2017 saying it was not being treated equally.

    Since then, Sinn Fein and the largest pro-British party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), blamed each other for a number of failed attempts to break the deadlock.

    The United Kingdom's Northern Ireland Minister Julian Smith said he asked the speaker of the house to recall the regional assembly on Friday and hoped the parties would support the deal.

    They have until Monday to break the deadlock or risk fresh elections.

    The importance of the devolved administration has increased following a provision in the UK's European Union withdrawal deal that will give the assembly the right every four years to consider whether to maintain alignment with EU market rules.

    As Brexit nears, Sinn Fein has increasingly called for a referendum to end the nearly century-old partition of the island and reunite Northern Ireland, part of the UK with a Protestant majority, with the mainly Roman Catholic Irish Republic. 

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency