Stormont deal: Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill new top NI ministers

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Féin and the DUP have re-entered devolved government in Northern Ireland after three years of deadlock.

DUP leader Arlene Foster was appointed as Northern Ireland’s first minister, while Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill is deputy first minister on Saturday.

The two parties supported a deal to restore Stormont’s political institutions.

Stormont’s power-sharing coalition, led by the DUP and Sinn Féin, collapsed in January 2017.

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Media captionArlene Foster says parties must work for everyone

The first minister comes from the largest party in the assembly and deputy first minister is from the second-largest party.

The positions are known as a “diarchy” which means they are equal and govern together.

The deputy first minister is not subordinate to the first minister, despite the title.


Addressing the assembly, Mrs Foster said the politicians have “many differences”.

“Michelle’s narrative of the past 40 years could not be more different to mine,” she said.

“I’m not sure we will ever agree on much about the past, but we can agree there was too much suffering, and that we cannot allow society to drift backwards and allow division to grow.”

She added that it was “time for Stormont to move forward”.

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Media captionMichelle O’Neill addresses the new NI Assembly

Michelle O’Neill said it was her “sincere wish that 2020 brings real change”.

She also pledged to immediately resolve the pay parity row that has led to industrial strike action among health workers.

She said: “I see no contradiction in declaring and delivering on our firm commitment to power sharing with unionism in the Stormont Assembly while also initiating a mature and inclusive debate about new political arrangements which examine Ireland’s future beyond Brexit.

“Similarly, there is no contradiction in unionism working the existing constitutional arrangements while taking its rightful place in the conversation about what a new Ireland would look like.

“We can do this while maintaining our independent distinct political identities and working in the best interests of all of the people.”

Image copyright PA Media Image caption Both prime ministers have welcomed the restoration of devolved government at Stormont

The prime minister called it a “momentous day”.

“The parties of Northern Ireland have shown great leadership in coming together to accept this fair and balanced deal in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland,”

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