Saturday 11 January 2020 9:44 am

Stormont: Sinn Féin agree deal to return to assembly in Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin and the DUP will re-enter Stormont on Saturday after agreeing a deal to end a three-year deadlock.

The devolved government will start up again today after nine months of talks.

British and Irish governments published the draft proposals on Thursday, which have now been agreed by both major parties.

Read more: Stormont: Northern Ireland secretary ‘holding the people to ransom’ with deal

Stormont’s power-sharing coalition collapsed in January 2017 over a green energy row.

Sinn Féin and the DUP are expected to elect a speaker and appoint executive ministers this afternoon.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the news as “a great step forwards for the people of Northern Ireland and for restoring public confidence in stable devolved Government and delivering much needed reforms to public services.”

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney, who helped broker the deal, said: “History is being made today.”

“We now have confirmation from the two largest parties in Northern Ireland that they both are committed to re-entering an executive and establishing a functioning Stormont assembly again.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the proposals represented a “fair and balanced deal”.

Read more: Bridge over troubled waters: Boris backs Scotland to Northern Ireland bridge

“I know there will be challenges in the deal, not least we need to make sure we have the finances to be able to deal with all of the issues in Northern Ireland that are present at the moment, particularly in and around the health sector.”

Up to 9,000 healthcare staff are currently on strike over pay and staffing levels.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said her party was up for a return to “genuine power sharing”.