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Donaldson to meet party leaders ahead of Stormont return

Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey will meet party whips to discuss the arrangements for the sitting of the Assembly tomorrow after the DUP ended its boycott of the power-sharing institutions.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson wrote to the Speaker following the passage of legislation in the House of Commons yesterday.

Mr Donaldson has also said he intends to meet with the heads of Northern Ireland’s political parties today to finalise arrangements on the key issues that will be addressed by the incoming executive.

It comes after two pieces of legislation contained in the UK government’s deal to restore power-sharing were fast-tracked through the House of Commons yesterday.

The two motions were approved by MPs without the need for a formal vote.

While the House of Lords debated the measures outlined in the government’s Strengthening the Union command paper they will not deliberate on the legislation until 13 February.

The statutory instruments will not become law until after they have had their say.

Mr Donaldson said he had written to Mr Maskey to confirm his party was prepared to end its two-year blockade on the institutions.

“I expect the Assembly will meet on Saturday following the Speaker consulting and making all necessary arrangements,” he said.

“It is my intention to meet with the leaders of the other executive parties during the course of Friday to finalise arrangements on the key issues that will be tackled by the incoming executive.

“Following the completion of detailed internal party processes with my party officers, all our elected members and DUP peers in the Lords, as well as the government having taken the legislative steps required of it, we are now able to re-establish the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland executive.

“We do so confidently as we look forward to continuing to work on all the issues that matter to people in Northern Ireland and to use all the new structures to shape the future, confident in the knowledge that much has been achieved.”

The move comes after the DUP agreed a package of measures with the UK government that Mr Donaldson says has effectively removed the so-called Irish Sea border for goods moving from Britain to, and staying in, Northern Ireland.

When the Northern Ireland Assembly does reconvene at Parliament Buildings it will witness the historically significant moment of the appointment of its first nationalist first minister, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill.

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