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Rishi Sunak hails ‘special opportunity’ as he starts Northern Ireland visit

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has lauded what he calls a “special opportunity” for Northern Ireland during his visit marking the return of power-sharing government. The restoration of devolved government, after a two-year hiatus, began on Saturday, allowing Northern Ireland politicians to refocus on delivering for families and businesses. Sunak expressed optimism, noting the hard work and commitment to making the renewed system work effectively. This visit is notable as it’s the first time Northern Ireland has had a fully functioning government since Sunak took office. He is scheduled to meet political leaders, including First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly.

The revival of power-sharing came after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ended its boycott over post-Brexit trade rules, striking a deal with Sunak’s government. The prime minister’s seventh visit aligns with the fully operational government, bringing a sense of achievement. However, the occasion is expected to raise questions about Stormont’s future finances. The government has already pledged £3.3 billion for the restored Northern Ireland Executive, with a focus on stabilizing public services and resolving public sector pay disputes. Sunak described this financial commitment as generous and fair, ensuring long-term sustainability. While the prime minister will engage with political leaders, discussions on community engagements and the region’s financial outlook are anticipated during his visit.

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