The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Tánaiste have published the text of a deal to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland, exactly three years after the Assembly collapsed. The time has come for the N.I Assembly to re-establish itself and focus on the issue that really matter to N.Ireland citizens.
A NEW DECADE, NEW APPROACH
It’s great to see s key element of the draft agreement includes:
“In support of both economic and educational objectives, the Executive will develop an enhanced approach to careers advice, curriculum, training and apprenticeships to enhance employability and support economic growth.” (p.9) and (p40).
Other elements include:
Transforming Public Services and Investing in the Economy
- This deal focuses on delivering what matters to citizens in Northern Ireland: better public services, a stronger economy and a fairer society.
- A new Executive will address problems in the health service, reform the education and justice systems, grow the economy, promote opportunity and tackle deprivation.
Better Politics and Sustainable Institutions
- This deal is about making sure Northern Ireland never goes three years without an Executive again.
- The deal is also about giving the public and the parties confidence in politics and in the sustainability of the institutions. This deal is not just an Executive for its own sake – it offers real reform.
- There are important improvements in how civil servants, special advisers and ministers should conduct themselves to provide more transparent and accountable government in the wake of the RHI issue. This means better use of taxpayers’ money and better delivery of the services and policies that shape people’s lives.
- There will be more time in the event a First or deputy First Minister resigns to appoint a replacement before an election is required. And significantly more time after an election to form an Executive. Ministers will be able to remain in post, while an Executive is formed, and Assembly committees will continue to be able to scrutinise the work of the Executive.
Language and Identity
- The deal offers a new cultural framework that will include a new Office for Identity and Cultural Expression to promote cultural diversity and inclusion across all identities and cultures alongside a Commissioner to enhance and develop the language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots / Ulster British tradition in Northern Ireland.
- This will be made law through an integrated package of legislation that will establish new parts of the Northern Ireland Act.
Petition of Concern
- There will be meaningful reform of the petition of concern bringing it closer to its original role, as conceived of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and as a means of building consensus. It will not be a veto for any one party.