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Northern Ireland Parties Plan To Restore Power-Sharing After 3-Year Hiatus

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald's party has agreed to a new power-sharing deal with the Democratic Unionist Party. McDonald (center) spoke about the agreement Friday, flanked by deputy leader Michelle O'Neill.

Northern Ireland will return to the power-sharing agreement that collapsed three years ago, as its two major parties – the nationalist Sinn Fein and the pro-U.K. Democratic Unionist Party – agreed Friday to a draft deal that would give Northern Ireland a new regional government. The deal was brokered by the governments of Ireland and the U.K.

"We have successfully delivered a new style of politics and a new assembly," Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O'Neill said Friday, as she posted a video of the party faithful giving a standing ovation to her and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald.

As the plan for a new shared government came together Thursday, Democratic Unionist Party Leader Arlene Foster said, "This is not a perfect deal and there are elements within it which we recognize are the product of long negotiations and represent compromise outcomes. There will always need to be give and take."

With the deal in hand, the Northern Ireland Assembly will meet on Saturday, according to the DUP's Gordon Lyons.

The two parties had been facing a Jan. 13 deadline to provide Northern Ireland with a new government or hold new elections. And in the wake of lackluster showings in December's general election, many analysts said voters were showing signs of being fed up with both the DUP and Sinn Fein, and with uncertainty over funding for schools, health care and other services.

Welcoming the deal, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said via Twitter, "This is a great step forwards for the people of Northern Ireland and for restoring public confidence in stable devolved Government and delivering much needed reforms to public services."

"The two parties are fiercely opposed to each other," NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from London. Referring to the end of the previous deal, he says, "Their governing arrangement collapsed over an unrelated green energy scandal."

Langfitt adds, "The deal to restore it includes official recognition of the Irish language — a sign of how powerful the issue of national identity remains."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.