OFMDFM agree on Victims Commissioner and Maze project

Stormont The first and deputy first ministers have agreed on a number of policy areas.

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have said agreements have been reached on a number of policy areas.

In a joint statement, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness said the decisions were taken in recent days.

A chairperson and ten board members will be appointed to oversee the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation.

A single Victims Commissioner has been selected and will be announced in the coming weeks.

In their joint statement, they said: "We are pleased to be able to give some detail on a range of policy decisions that we have taken during the course of the last number of days.

"We have reached a series of wide-ranging agreements that will be to the benefit of people across the community and will deliver further progress in the autumn on the reform agenda we have set out as part of our Programme for Government commitments."

Investment strategy

Analysis

The first and deputy first ministers have reached agreement on a series of thorny issues, including a new board to spearhead the development of the former Maze prison site.

Delays and disagreement have overshadowed plans to transform the 360-acre site, as well as other initiatives, such as the new Education Skills Authority.

But with the assembly in summer recess, the ministers have been able to tackle the backlog.

Following a series of meetings and discussions, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness issued a statement outlining a series of agreements.

Agreement on the bills means they can be raised at the first Executive meeting in September and rolled out to the assembly for scrutiny and debate.

No agreement has been reached on future of the Department of Learning, which Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness indicated would be scrapped.

They're now content to await discussions with the other parties on the future structures of the Executive, including the number and shape of departments.

Board members have been selected to oversee the development of the Maze site, where a conflict resolution centre is to be built on the grounds of the former H-blocks. The Office of the First and Deputy First Minister said their identities would be revealed once appointment procedures had taken place.

Ministers have also agreed to appoint a single Victims Commissioner. The commission, which was set up in 2008 to champion the cause of victims of Northern Ireland's Troubles, originally had four members.

They also announced there would be a readvertisement for the chair of Ilex, Londonderry's urban regeneration company, "with a view to securing a wider range of applicants".

They said details of the new investment strategy have been finalised and will be brought for approval to the next meeting of the Executive on 3 September.

"The strategy envisages an investment programme totalling £12.6billion, with £5.4billion to be delivered between now and 2015 supporting over 13,000 jobs in the construction industry and more in the related supply chain," they said.

They said they had also reached agreement on a number of other policy areas:

  • Cohesion Sharing and Integration Strategy: Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness said they were "encouraged that considerable progress has been made" by a working group looking at the issue and would meet in September to conclude the process.
  • Education Skills Authority Bill "will be brought to the next meeting of the Executive in order to commence its legislative passage in the Assembly".
  • Welfare Reform Bill: "In light of decisions taken by the Coalition Government at Westminster, work is ongoing on the local welfare reform bill and regulations to ameliorate the harsher elements of the Westminster legislation"
  • Social Investment Fund: Ministers have progressed the establishment of the SIF steering groups, and the first and deputy first minister have written to party leaders asking for nominations from each of the parties in order to complete the compositions of the steering groups.
  • Executive Information Service: an external review of its structure and workings has been commissioned by the first and deputy first ministers.

They added that there had been "constructive engagement" with party leaders over proposals to reduce the number of government departments.

"The first minister and the deputy first minister are content to await the outcome of this process before taking decisions on the future of the Department for Employment and Learning," they said.

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