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by Eleanor Langford
13 January 2020
Northern Ireland on the verge of 'an incredible time of opportunity', says Boris Johnson


Northern Ireland on the verge of 'an incredible time of opportunity', says Boris Johnson

Northern Ireland is on the verge of "an incredible time of opportunity" after the restoration of power-sharing at Stormont, Boris Johnson has claimed.

The Prime Minister spoke out as he prepared to meet with DUP and Sinn Féin leaders in Belfast.

His visit alongside Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar comes just days after the parties agreed to sign up to a deal re-opening the Northern Ireland Assembly's doors for the first time in three years.

Politicians from all five main parties in the province met for the first time since 2017 on Saturday, after an agreement on a new power-sharing coalition was reached.

Johnson will meet with First Minister Arlene Foster, from the DUP, and her Sinn Fein deputy, Michelle O’Neill, during his visit.

The Prime Minister said it was "an historic time for the people of Northern Ireland".

He added: “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.”

“I look forward to meeting with the new Executive and hearing about their plans for the future - including driving forward much needed reforms to public services and resolving the current health strike."

Northern Irish healthcare is in the midst of a crisis with patients facing huge waits for treatments such as cancer therapy and hip replacements.

And, thousands of nurses across Northern Ireland have staged strikes in recent weeks over “unsafe” staffing levels and poor pay.

As part of the power sharing deal, the Treasury has pledged an extra £2bn in funding to help Stormont improve public services.

Other aspects of the deal include protections for the Irish language - a key demand of Sinn Féin - and voting mechanisms to help protect minority interests.

More controversial areas include the establishment of a historical investigations unit to look into unsolved murders during the Troubles.

Critics claim this new unit could increase prosecutions of British ex-servicemen who served in Northern Ireland during the conflict.

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