Sinn Féin backs deal to restore power-sharing in Stormont
After three years of deadlock, power-sharing looks set to return.
Sinn Féin says the party will re-enter devolved government in Northern Ireland after three years of deadlock.
The last DUP/Sinn Féin-led coalition government collapsed in January 2017 over a row about a botched green energy scheme and the Irish language act.
Earlier today, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had given their tentative support to a draft deal to restore Stormont's political institutions.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said there was a basis to re-establish the devolved institutions in a "fair and balanced way".
The commitment from Sinn Féin comes after Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith had presented the five main parties in Northern Ireland with a proposal that could form the basis for reestablishing the Northern Ireland Executive.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald announced that the party has agreed to back a deal to restore power sharing at Stormont.
McDonald said: "The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle has met today and has taken the decision to re-enter the power-sharing institutions and to nominate ministers to the power-sharing executive. We believe that the changes which have been achieved in the negotiations over the last year build on what was agreed in February 2019."
McDonald said they now have "official legal recognition of the Irish language for the first time" and added that it was a "red letter day" for Irish identity.
She noted that Sinn Féin was interested in a return to "genuine power sharing".
Peace process structures mean a ministerial executive can only function with the inclusion of the largest unionist party and largest nationalist party in the region.
The new deal contains compromise solutions to the issues that led to the 36-month power vacuum in Stormont, including legislative provisions for Irish language speakers.
Elsewhere, the deal promises to take action to reduce hospital waiting lists, extend mitigation payments for benefit claimants hit by welfare reforms, increase the number of police officers in Northern Ireland and resolve an industrial dispute involving teachers.
A Sinn Féin statement issued on Friday read: "We have a basis to restore power sharing, we are up for that. There is no doubt there are serious challenges ahead – the impact of Brexit, austerity and a range of other issues.
"The biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring that we have genuine power-sharing based on equality, respect and integrity. I believe that the power sharing government can work. That requires everyone to step up. Sinn Féin’s commitment is to do all in our power to make this happen.
"At these historic times, we will also continue to work for Irish re-unification and ensuring that the criteria for the triggering of an Irish Unity poll are set out and that the planning for unity is stepped up, including the convening of a national forum to discuss and plan the future."