Northern Ireland’s devolved government is on the brink of being restored after a two-year hiatus. A crucial meeting is scheduled to take place on Saturday at Stormont in Belfast, where power-sharing institutions will be revived.
A notable development in this revival is the appointment of an Irish nationalist as the first minister, marking a significant shift in the political landscape. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had boycotted Stormont over Brexit trade rules but recently decided to end their boycott, paving the way for the government to address unionist concerns.
The restoration of Stormont begins with the election of a new speaker, followed by the nominations for ministerial positions. Sinn Féin, as the largest party, will nominate a first minister, with Michelle O’Neill expected to assume the role. What’s noteworthy is that the DUP, as the predominant unionist party, will nominate a deputy first minister for the first time.
While the Alliance Party’s participation is yet to be confirmed, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has already confirmed its intention to take up a role in the executive. However, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) will go into opposition as they do not meet the qualifications for the next executive.
The DUP’s agreement with the UK government is another crucial aspect of the restoration. It will result in a reduction of post-Brexit checks and paperwork on goods moving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. This development aims to appease the concerns of unionists.
Moreover, the return of a Stormont executive will also bring much-needed relief to struggling public services in Northern Ireland. The UK Treasury is set to release a £3.3bn package to support these services, which have faced significant challenges in recent years.
Sinn Féin’s emergence as the largest party in the previous assembly election, surpassing the DUP’s position, has set the stage for an interesting political landscape. As Northern Ireland’s devolved government finally gets back on track, many will be closely watching how this power-sharing arrangement unfolds and its potential implications for the region’s future.