Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland political crisis: Governments and two largest parties agree deal

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Media captionTheresa Villiers said the deal reached represents "fresh start for Northern Ireland's devolved institutions"

A deal has been reached between the British and Irish governments and Northern Ireland's two largest parties to resolve the current crisis.

After 10 weeks of talks, a way forward has been agreed on paramilitarism and welfare reform.

However, they failed to break the deadlock over legacy issues arising from Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the agreement was "an important turning point for Northern Ireland".

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Media captionThe DUP and Sinn Féin have both backed the deal

"The agreement secures sustainability for Northern Ireland's budget, sets out how we'll deal with paramilitary groups, and could provide a basis for a shared future for the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

The deal includes a new set of principles politicians will be asked to follow in relation to paramilitarism and a reworked financial package to help those impacted by welfare reforms and tax credit cuts.

While the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin have backed the deal, the executive's Justice Minister David Ford, who leads the Alliance Party, said his party refused to support it today.

Other parties said they needed more time to study the document.

The US government has welcomed the deal.

Victims' groups have said they are disappointed the deal does not include any movement on the legacy issues of the Troubles.

Stormont crisis: How the story unfolded

Reaction to the Stormont deal

Read BBC News NI political editor Mark Devenport's analysis


Political principles

New principles are in place expecting politicians to work towards the disbandment of paramilitary structures.

Politicians must not take instructions from anywhere other than those who have given them their democratic mandate.

The new principles will apply not only to ministers in Northern Ireland's ruling executive but to all MLAs, it is understood.

International monitoring body

An international body will be set up to monitor paramilitary activity, with appointees nominated by the British and Irish governments and the Northern Ireland Executive.

It will have a £3.2m budget.

Unlike the old paramilitary monitoring body, the Independent Monitoring Commission, the new body will not have the power to recommend the exclusion of any parties from the assembly.

Cross-border task force

A new cross-border task force will bring together agencies like HM Revenue and Customs, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the National Crime Agency - the UK's equivalent of the FBI - with their equivalents in the Republic of Ireland.

The task force is expected to have a budget of about £50m. The PSNI will also get an extra £160m over the next five years.

Finance and welfare reform

Read BBC News NI economics editor John Campbell's analysis

Last year's Stormont House Agreement fell on the issue of welfare reform, when Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) refused to let the changes pass through the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Welfare reform and tax credits

Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey is due to bring a legislative consent motion to the assembly on Wednesday that will allow the government to push the changes through.

Westminster is expected to start the process either this week or next.

The last Stormont deal included a mitigation package on welfare reform that amounted to £564m over a six-year period.

The new deal includes a four-year programme, with a value of £585m.

The cash will be split, with £345m for measures designed to mitigate the welfare changes.

The remaining £240m will be spent on measures to help families who will lose out on tax credits.

An independent benefit expert has been asked to ensure that £30m a year is devoted to assist people affected by the spare room subsidy, better known as the bedroom tax.

Stormont sources are hopeful that they will recover around £40m of so-called fines linked to welfare that would have gone to the Treasury.

They also expect to benefit by as much as £150m from a commitment to cut down on benefit fraud and error, under a scheme in which any savings would be split with the Treasury.

Corporation tax

Northern Ireland's major parties have campaigned for corporation tax to be devolved, believing that cutting the tax would help tackle problems in the economy.

The new agreement puts back the target date for cutting corporation tax by a year.

The new date will be April 2018 and the rate will be 12.5%, the same as in the Republic of Ireland.

Other financial measures

Executive sources claim there is no fresh borrowing in the package, but when added together it contains more than £500m in extra new money.

Previous loans, such as £700m for a public sector voluntary exit scheme remain in place.

A commitment for £500m towards shared education will now be reallocated so some of the money may be spent on shared housing.

It is also understood there is £60m to carry out work connected with Belfast's peace walls.

It is believed the Irish government is ready to provide £75m towards modernising the A5, part of a road link between Dublin and the north-west of Northern Ireland.

It is thought Stormont will match this funding.

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