Northern Ireland: Protests outside and leaks from inside but the deal to restore power-sharing is done | UK News

There were protestors outside the talks and someone was leaking secret talks from inside but it did not thwart breakthrough.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson emerged from a lengthy meeting of the DUP Executive with support for a deal to restore power-sharing.

He said his party would end its boycott of devolved government once the UK government honoured commitments it has made.

The government is now expected to table legislation to address Unionist concerns about the Brexit border in the Irish Sea.

The legislation is designed to strengthen Northern Ireland’s place in the UK and limit the impact of the trade border.

The agreement is set to end two years of stalemate at Stormont and comes after months and months of negotiation.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson leaving his party's HQ after briefing senior members on government proposals Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson leaving his party’s HQ after briefing senior members on government proposals Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Unionists felt betrayed when Boris Johnson agreed to a trade border between GB and Northern Ireland to “get Brexit done”.

The previous year, he had told the DUP conference that no British prime minister could ever countenance such a move.

Frustrated by what they regarded as a threat to Northern Ireland’s position within the UK, Unionists pulled out of power-sharing.

Rishi Sunak’s new deal with the EU – the Windsor Framework – addressed some, but not all, of their concerns about sovereignty.

Read more: 150,000 public sector workers walk out in Northern Ireland’s biggest strike in recent history

But a crisis in public services in Northern Ireland has piled pressure on the Democratic Unionists to restore devolved government.

Earlier this month, the UK government pledged an eye-watering £3.3 billion to support the efforts of any new Stormont administration.

Rishi Sunak can take much credit but this complex deal represents a huge leap of faith by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Jamie Bryson, a loyalist activist and fierce opponent of compromise, was live tweeting from a DUP source inside the meeting.

But the party leader has faced down his critics to restore the power-sharing at the heart of the peace process.

“It’s all over bar the shouting,” one DUP source said, and there will be plenty of noise about this decision.

But Northern Ireland seems set to have a devolved government in place within days and that signals a historic moment.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, who topped the poll in the election, is poised to become the first Nationalist First Minister.