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A fresh start for Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland executive, the UK and Irish governments have agreed a set of actions following ten weeks of talks

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After ten weeks of intensive cross party talks at Stormont House, the Northern Ireland executive and the UK and Irish governments have agreed a set of actions to address the two key themes the talks were convened to address: to secure the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement; and to deal with the impact of continued paramilitary activity.

‘A Fresh Start: the Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan’ A Fresh Start - Final document (PDF, 692KB, 67 pages) builds on previous political agreements and brings closer the goal of a Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger.

On the Stormont House Agreement the agreed package will:

  • Help give the Executive a stable and sustainable budget, including additional UK Government financial support of around £500 million to assist the Executive in tackling issues unique to Northern Ireland, including support for their programme to remove peace walls;
  • Pave the way of the devolution of corporation tax powers which is expected to lead to a reduction to 12.5 per cent by April 2018;
  • Allow measures to address the issues of flags and parades to go ahead; and
  • Introduce institutional changes to make devolution work better including on the size of the Assembly, the number of departments, use of the petition of concern and provision for an official opposition.

On paramilitary activity, the document strongly reaffirms support for the rule of law. Additional measures include:

  • Fresh obligations on Northern Ireland’s elected representatives to work together on their shared objective of ridding society of all forms of paramilitary activity and groups;
  • A concerted and enhanced effort to combat organised and cross border crime, which the UK government will help to fund.

Despite some significant progress a final agreement on the establishment of new bodies to deal with the past was not reached. The Government continues to support these provisions of the Stormont House Agreement and to providing better outcomes for victims and survivors. We will now reflect with the other participants on how we can move forward and achieve broad consensus for legislation.

The Prime Minister said:

This breakthrough today is an important turning point for Northern Ireland. The agreement secures sustainability for Northern Ireland’s budget, sets out how we’ll deal with paramilitary groups, and could provide a basis for a shared future for the people of Northern Ireland.

The progress we’ve achieved is testament to the commitment and hard work put in by the Northern Ireland parties, backed by Theresa Villiers and the Irish Government, and I’m very pleased we’re taking this step forwards. What is vital now is that the parties in Northern Ireland use this agreement as the platform for stable devolved government that delivers on the day to day issues that matter to people.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP said:

This is a good day for Northern Ireland and a fresh start for devolved government. This Agreement deals with the issues that have cast the greatest shadow over the future of the devolved institutions here.

This Agreement means that Northern Ireland’s finances can be put back on a sustainable footing, ending the long-standing dispute over the budget. There will be a fresh emphasis on tackling paramilitarism and organised crime and clear declaration that such activity will never be tolerated. And there will be reforms of the Executive and Assembly to make devolution work better.

Today’s agreement is another step towards the Government’s goal of building a brighter, more secure future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

Background on the talks process, including a timeline of key events, can be found here.

Published 17 November 2015