POWERSHARING LOOKS set to return to Northern Ireland this weekend after a landmark agreement was reached to restore devolution in the region.
The Northern Ireland Assembly is expected to return to business this Saturday, January 11, three years after the collapse of the coalition agreement.
That previous collapse came in the wake of a failed green energy scheme and further issues surrounding the Irish language and lasting legacy of the Troubles.
Under peace process structures, a ministerial executive can only function with the inclusion of the largest unionist party and largest nationalist party.
The assembly was restored to action this past Friday, January 10, after Sinn Fein joined the DUP in backing a draft agreement tabled by the UK and Irish governments to re-enter a mandatory coalition ministerial executive.
Assembly members are set to sit from 1pm this Saturday when an election will be held to establish a new speaker and team of deputy speakers in the house.
The afternoon will continue on with the election of a DUP first minister, a Sinn Féin deputy first minister and the rest of the new ministerial executive.
The plenary session is expected to last for three-and-a-half hours.
It comes after Northern Ireland’s two largest parties signed up to a deal offering compromises on a variety of long-standing disputes covering issues like the Irish language.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald believes the new draft agreement provided the basis required to restore parliamentary institutions in the region.
“We now have the basis to restore power-sharing, and we're up for that," Ms McDonald said.
"There's no doubt there are serious challenges ahead; the impact of Brexit, austerity and other pressing issues.
"But the biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring we have genuine power-sharing build on equality, respect and integrity.
"I believe that the power-sharing government can work. That requires everyone to step up. Sinn Fein's commitment is to do all in our power to make this happen."
Ms McDonald also insisted that while some Irish language activists may be disappointed with provisions outlined in the deal, there would be more gains for language in the future.
"I would say to Irish language activists take heart from the fact that this is now an historic moment because for the first time we have official recognition," she said.
Her comments were echoed by DUP leader Arlene Foster in a similar statement published earlier this week.
As part of the deal, the UK government has pledged will be a substantial Treasury-funded financial package to tackle public sector issues like the recent nurses’ strike.
The new executive is now set to address issues around benefits, welfare, policing, industrial disputes and increasing hospital waiting lists.