Friday 10 January 2020 1:33 pm

Stormont talks: Northern Ireland secretary 'holding the people to ransom' with deal

Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith has been accused of “holding the people of Northern Ireland to ransom” by trade union Unison.

Smith and Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney announced a draft Stormont deal on Thursday to restore Northern Ireland’s devolved government.

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

The executive has been in a state of political deadlock for three years.

Meanwhile, there are around 9,000 health workers currently on strike over pay and staffing levels in NI.

But Smith told the BBC that extra money for workers would be withheld in the absence of a deal.

“There is no money coming unless the executive gets up and running,” he said.

“I want to focus on public services, they need to get back to work,” he said.

However, Patricia McKeown, from Unison, told the BBC that the dispute could be “resolved immediately”.

“That’s about holding the people of Northern Ireland at ransom,” she said.

“It’s about really infringing on their human rights, health workers and patients alike.”

The Northern Ireland secretary asked the Stormont speaker, Robin Newton, to arrange an urgent meeting of the assembly for Friday in a bit to get it running again.

However, Newton said it the assembly would only be recalled if the political parties agree on a potential deal to restore power sharing.

Read more: DUP warns Westminster Northern Ireland will have its voice heard loud and clear in Brexit negotiations

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the proposals are “not perfect” but were a basis to move forward.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin is examining the draft deal at internal party meetings today, and are expected to agree to the deal by Saturday at the latest, according to Sky News.

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