Wednesday, February 21

PM hails Northern Ireland compromise



Boris Johnson has hailed the wonderful compromise that has seen the return of devolution to Northern Ireland, after meeting Stormont’s newly-appointed leaders in Belfast.

The prime minister said Stormont was open for business again in the wake of the restoration of power-sharing following three years of political deadlock.

Mr Johnson praised politicians from all sides in Northern Ireland, saying they had put aside their differences, stepped up to the plate and showed leadership.

I just want to say how grateful I am to all the parties, to everybody here in Northern Ireland, for the way they have compromised the way they have worked together to get Stormont up and running once again, he said.

It’s shown a willingness to trust each other and to set aside differences and I think it’s absolutely commendable and wonderful to see.

Mr Johnson added: Never mind the hand of history on my shoulder… I see the hand of the future beckoning us all forward.

And I hope that with goodwill and compromise and hard work on all sides it will be a very bright future indeed.

The prime minister was greeted by DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill outside Stormont Castle in Belfast as he arrived for the talks earlier.

As they posed for pictures Mr Johnson shook hands with Ms O’Neill, while Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith shook hands with Ms Foster.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was also due at Stormont, as he and Mr Johnson mark the return of devolution.

The British government made a number of financial promises to get the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement over the line.

Mr Smith promised major investment to tackle problems in Northern Ireland’s struggling public services, but declined to confirm the sums involved until devolution was restored.

Ministers at Stormont are now keen to nail down precise figures.

There are reports the government could announce a £2bn package, but a Downing Street source has described this figure as just speculation.

And Mr Johnson himself did not answer when asked by journalists about the £2bn figure.

Additionally, the Irish government made financial pledges within the agreement to honour commitments to part-fund some north/south projects, such as the A5 dual carriageway and a redevelopment of the Ulster canal system.

Speaking ahead of the discussions, Mr Johnson said they will focus on how the executive intended to take forward critical reforms to public services.

This is an historic time for the people of Northern Ireland, he said.

After three years, Stormont is open for business again with an executive who can now move forward with improving people’s lives and delivering for all communities in Northern Ireland.

The cause was a row about a botched green energy scheme, a dispute that later widened to include more traditional wrangles on issues like the Irish language and the legacy of the Troubles.

Mr Johnson said in his news conference that there could be no repetition of the scandal.