A hopeful day for NI after a promising DUP-Tory deal is sealed

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

After months of uncertainty and anguish, Northern Ireland entered a new political era yesterday.

The delay in securing an agreement between the Conservative Party and the DUP had become increasingly unsettling to behold, given that the election was held almost three weeks ago, and a much more binding coalition between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats was achieved within days in 2015.

But the agreement yesterday was worth waiting for, and in so many respects well judged. Arlene Foster talked extensively about matters of national importance, which was the right tone to strike with such a large audience looking on.

The money that was delivered for Northern Ireland was all on areas that can command support across the community, such as on lasting infrastructure including broadband and the crucial York Street interchange in Belfast.

And for money on other matters such as health, there was an indication (in the reference to moves towards a “sustainable NHS”) that it will accompany health service reform – the best of all worlds: cash now to alleviate the immediate difficulties but later changes that improve efficiency.

The deal seems to have spurred Sinn Fein to show renewed enthusiasm for Stormont, and so it is understandable that the Westminster text did not mention controversial matters here. They are of greater significance in any devolution deal.

Prominent in the background yesterday was one of the most crucial issues: legacy. It emerged that Dennis Hutchings will face a trial for attempted murder, weeks after a judge struck out that charge, before prosecutors reinstated it and then Mr Justice Treacy approved trial yesterday.

That case is before the courts and the legal system will run its course. But it can be said now that it is outrageous that as elderly soldiers face trial, terrorist leaders do not. The London deal says the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) legacy structures will go out for consultation. We urge people to scrutinise them, as this newspaper will do. Unless it is crystal clear the legacy imbalance scandal will be rectified, SHA must fall.