Northern Ireland news

New decade must bring `stable devolution'

DUP leader Arlene Foster

THE 2020s must be about stable devolution where the executive is committed to building a successful Northern Ireland at peace with itself, the DUP leader has said.

In her new year message, Arlene Foster said bold decisions were needed to reform and improve schools and hospitals to support the next generation.

She also said the new decade should be about realising and harnessing all that is good "rather than driving wedges and creating divisions".

The 2020s, she added, should be the decade of decision rather than dithering.

Mrs Foster said the A5 and York Street Interchange must be built, while there was a need for enough doctors and nurses trained to care for the public.

Political talks will resume on Thursday.

"We will be there and stand ready to restore devolution through a fair and balanced deal. A Northern Ireland that is going to keeping moving forward must be one where everyone feels at home but must also be one where no one feels their culture is being marginalised," Mrs Foster said.

"Whilst some will focus on border polls and narrow interests, to do so will be a mistake and will lead to a wasted decade.

"The majority of people want us to focus on delivering better public services and building a Northern Ireland where their children can succeed. The electorate have used the ballot box to reinforce that message. The 2020s must be about showing that we have listened."

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said people were entering a decade of opportunity with hope and optimism.

Writing in the Irish News today, she said it was now not a question of if there would be a unity referendum, but when.

"While we can agree to disagree on the timing of a referendum - I believe a five-year time frame is reasonable - Sinn Féin will never collude in the lie that partition is permanent," she said.

"Irish unity may present challenges, but it's in the best interests of the future of our island."

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said 2020 should be the year that provides hope for all the people and sees "a wind of change blowing through local politics".

"It can be an opportunity to break the logjam and demonstrate to the people of Northern Ireland that local politicians can deliver. However that will require all of us to build trust and mutual respect across all communities," he said.

"The Ulster Unionist Party is committed to engaging positively and respectfully in the days and weeks ahead to help deliver better government through a restored and reformed assembly and executive. That will require a change in culture and approach from all parties which has been lacking in the past, but which can be delivered by a change in attitude."

Meanwhile, Archbishop Eamon Martin said Ireland north and south needed "the rekindling of wholesome relationships".

"As the out-workings of Brexit begin to emerge, the early years of this decade will be crucial in sustaining peace and rebuilding relationships on the island of Ireland and between us and our neighbours in Britain and Europe," he said.

"Archbishop Richard Clarke and I said recently that our country, north and south, truly needs the rekindling of wholesome relationships - socially and politically, nationally and internationally, and this will require men and women of integrity, generosity and courage to take the initiative in making these crucial relationships work."

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