Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill elected first ever nationalist First Minister of Northern Ireland

Restoration of the powersharing Executive comes two years to the day since the DUP collapsed the institutions

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill has been elected as First Minister of Northern Ireland in a historic moment for Northern politics. O’Neill is the first non-unionist politician – she succeeds 11 unionist leaders – to head Stormont’s devolved government since its establishment more than a century ago.

The restoration of the powersharing Executive comes two years to the day since the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) collapsed the institutions in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Assembly members will gather at Parliament Buildings at 1pm to elect a Speaker – a move blocked by the DUP seven times as part of its boycott – before the nomination of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister roles.

Main points so far


On that note, we are wrapping up our live coverage of today’s historic events in Northern Ireland.

Thanks for joining us, and stay tuned to for all the best of our reportage and analysis in the coming hours and days.

Read a wrap of the day’s events here.


The British and Irish co-chairs of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, Karen Bradley and Brendan Smith respectively, have said the restoration of Stormont is “an opportunity to breathe new life into democratic governance in Northern Ireland”.

“The election of a Speaker allows the Assembly to resume its core task of representing the people of Northern Ireland,” they said.

“The nomination of an Executive means that important decisions on spending and strategies for tackling pressing issues of public concern can be made in a way which enables proper accountability for decision-making.

“We commend the persistence, hard work and courage of all those who have worked to restore the Assembly to its proper place in the political life of Northern Ireland.”

The two co-chairs, in a joint statement, added that the North-South Ministerial Council should now shortly resume full operation at all levels.

“Like the Assembly, the council is an essential component of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and continual and open dialogue in the council at all levels is essential to deliver measures to improve the lives of people on both sides of the Border,” they said.

“We look forward to the Assembly working with all the institutions of that agreement, including the British Irish Council, as well as with the new East-West Council and Intertrade UK: and we welcome the opportunities this will give to deepen further the relationships across our shared islands.”


President Michael D Higgins has also welcomed the restoration of the power-sharing.

“Today’s reactivation of the Northern Ireland Assembly will be welcomed by all those who wish to see an effective system of power-sharing,” he said.

“May I congratulate Edwin Poots on his election as Speaker of Stormont and wish him every success in the role.

“May I send warmest regards to Michelle O’Neill on her nomination as First Minister and to Emma Little-Pengelly on her nomination as Deputy First Minister and convey to both of them every good wish in the responsibilities they are undertaking.”

Mr Higgins said the speeches of both the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister were “most impressive in their inclusion, warmth and their wish to get to grips with all of the important practical tasks that they will face”.

“This obvious shared desire to work together offers the best of prospects for the institutions to serve all of the people and to meet their differing needs,” he continued.

“I wish the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and their Ministers well in their new roles in the work that lies ahead of them as we look ahead to the full restoration of all of the institutions of devolved government.

“Traoslaím libh uilig agus guídhim gach beannacht do’n todhchaí.”


US congressman Richard E Neal has released the following statement after the election of Michelle O’Neill to serve as First Minister of Northern Ireland.

“I would like to congratulate Michelle O’Neill on her election to serve as First Minister of Northern Ireland – the first Irish Nationalist leader in history to hold the seat.

“This is the result of two successive elections in which the people of Northern Ireland made their voices heard. After two years of delays, parties will once again sit in government and resume the people’s business.”


Asked if he believes the Assembly and Executive will stay functioning, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said he is confident devolved government in Northern Ireland is “sustainable in the very long term”.

“I just heard two fantastic speeches from the First Minister and deputy First Minister,” he said.

“I know what has been going on behind the scenes here as well.

“I am extremely confident that this will be sustainable in the very long term.”


Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has described a “great day for Northern Ireland”.

He addressed media in the Great Hall in Stormont following the nomination of First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and Speaker Edwin Poots.

“It’s a great day for Northern Ireland, it’s a great day for everyone here, a great day for businesses across this place and public services here,” he said.


That concludes the appointment of the new Stormont ministers.

The SDLP has been recognised as official Opposition and the party’s Matthew O’Toole is elected as the Speaker of the Opposition.

Sinn Féin’s Aisling Reilly and DUP’s Pam Cameron are elected as junior ministers.


Sinn Fein nominated John O’Dowd as Minister for Infrastructure.


The DUP nominated Gordon Lyons as Minister for Communities.


Alliance Party MLA Andrew Muir is elected Agriculture and Environment Minister.


As mooted earlier, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Robin Swann is elected Health Minister.


Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald bas been elected Finance Minister.


The DUP’s Paul Givan has been elected as Education Minister. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has requested a short adjournment.


First Minister Michelle O’Neill has nominated Sinn Féin party colleague, MLA Conor Murphy, for the Economy Minister post.


As expected, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has been elected Stormont Justice Minister.



Tánaiste Micheál Martin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said it was a “special day” for the people of Northern Ireland.

“Two years after the Assembly and Executive were collapsed, they have been restored. MLAs who were given a mandate by their electorate back in May 2022 can now take up that mandate in full.

“I want to congratulate Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly on assuming their roles as First Minister and Deputy First Minister. I wish them both well in what will be very demanding roles. I look forward to working with them, and with their Executive colleagues.

“I also want to congratulate Edwin Poots on his election as Speaker of the Assembly.”

He said the hard work would now begin in earnest.

“Northern Ireland faces a number of real challenges. An Executive working collectively – and prioritising real, everyday needs over questions of identity – can meet these challenges.

“The Government stands ready to support the work of the Executive and to work in partnership with the British Government in this.”

Mr Martin said he was looking forward to an early meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council (NMSC).

“The NSMC will play a key role in the period ahead in making sure that we make the most of shared opportunities, including supporting the all-island economy, which continues to be a source of prosperity, growth, and livelihoods for many from all communities across this island.

“Northern Ireland’s unique position as part of the UK internal market while, at the same time, having unique access to the EU’s single market of nearly 450 million people provides a solid opportunity for growth. It will now be for the Executive and Assembly to ensure that Northern Ireland can prosper and grow using these unrivalled opportunities,” he said.


Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said she grew up with conflict.

She told Stormont she is thankful that young people today “do not have to face that terror that so many of us hear that but as a child”, adding she will “never forget the fear, the hurt and the anger”.

“The past with all its horror can never be forgotten, and nor will it be allowed to be rewritten but while we are shaped by the past, we are not defined by it,” she said.

“The experience of my childhood gave me the drive and desire to make a different future not just for myself, but to do all that I could and can to ensure a better future for all of us.

“Across this chamber we have different political viewpoints and experiences but what we also know is that the mummy waiting on her cancer diagnosis is not defined as being republican or unionist.

“She is defined by the sleepless nights and worry that she may never see her children grow up.”


TUV leader Jim Allister launches a personal attack on Sinn Féin First Minister Michelle O’Neill following her appointment. “We have a Sinn Féin First Minister but not in my name. I will never bow the knee,” he says.

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons responds to Allister, telling the chamber that his previous comments reflect why he is the only elected member of his party in the chamber.

To heckles from Allister, Lyons says: “Mr Allister has absolutely nothing to offer the people of Northern Ireland.”


SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole – the new head of Stormont’s official Opposition – has asked the newly-elected First Minister and Deputy First Minister if they will take a pledge to ensure they will not collapse the devolved institutions by “resigning your office”.

First Minister Michelle O’Neill responds that it is “not a day for stunts” and that she will ensure to deliver for all.


Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said she and First Minister Michelle O’Neill come from “very different backgrounds”, but said she will work “tirelessly” to ensure that together they can deliver for all in Northern Ireland.

“I recognise that for many today it is a historic moment with the nomination of Michelle O’Neill and myself as first ministers,” she said.

“It is a day that confirms the democratic outcome of the election.

“Serving people in this house in any role is an honour and a privilege. It is an opportunity to shape Northern Ireland for the better and to make a meaningful difference.

“I love Northern Ireland. I am deeply proud to be from this place we call home despite our often troubled history and divisions of the past, I know that we have incredible potential.”


Newly elected DUP Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly is telling the Chamber that Michelle O’Neill’s nomination and her nomination to the joint office is a “historic moment”.


O’Neill addresses the Assembly

She says her appointment “reflects that change”.

“I am a republican,” she says. “I will serve everyone equally and be a First Minister for all. To all of you who are British and unionist; Your national identity, culture and traditions are important to me. I will be both inclusive and respectful to you.

“None of us are being asked or expected to surrender who we are. Our allegiances are equally legitimate. Let’s walk this two-way street and meet one another halfway. I will be doing so with both an open hand and with heart.

“Much suffering and trauma persists as a result of the injustices and tragedies of the past. We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. I am sorry for all the lives lost during the conflict. Without exception.

“As First Minister I am wholeheartedly committed to continuing the work of reconciliation between all of our people. The past cannot be changed or undone.

“But what we can do is build a better future. I will never ask anyone to ‘move on’, but I do hope that we can ‘move forward’.

“I want us to walk in harmony and friendship. My eyes are firmly fixed on the future. On unifying people and society.

“Every generation must write its own chapter, define its own legacy. Scotland’s greatest Irish man, James Connolly, proclaimed what must be our ambitions for our young people – ‘Our demands most moderate are, we only want the earth’.

“It’s my dream that our children and grandchildren will achieve beyond our wildest ambitions.

“I believe in our young people; they can change our society and change the world if we give them the chance.

“Let our legacy be that chance, that freedom for every young person, for every child.”

She adds that 1998 “opened a new horizon of hope and optimism”.

“Now in 2024, let’s gift today’s generation all that they deserve.

“Go raibh míle maith agaibh.”


Michelle O’Neill speech

“We must do more to shape the type of society we live in. Violence against women and girls is an epidemic and it is an emergency that requires urgent action.

“That means everyone working collectively to challenge misogyny and sexist attitudes that have led and continue to lead to violence against women.

“As political leaders, we need women and girls to know that we have their backs and that we are working to put laws in place to protect them.

“One of the first actions that this incoming executive must take is to introduce a new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls.

“Mr Speaker, our society is becoming increasingly diverse as reflected in the census results.

“That is something to be respected and celebrated.

“Everyone, from every section of this society must know they matter, and that we care.”


She continues: “We have many shared priorities. Which I know we will all reflect today. We must deliver on more affordable childcare to support workers and families. We must deliver social and affordable homes.

“Everyone deserves to have a place to call home. We must transform health and social care. We must ensure that children with additional needs have first class support.

“Key infrastructure development such as the A5, A29 road schemes, Casement Park and other signature projects will be delivered so we can enhance connectivity and support communities. Regional balance and continued investment in Derry and the northwest are essential.

“We must work to mitigate the climate catastrophe. We must protect Lough Neagh and realise its massive potential.

“With new leadership in the Economy Department, we will work in partnership with business, the trade union movement, education providers, and the community sector to improve economic performance.

“We will now begin to seize the considerable opportunities created by the Windsor Framework. To use dual market access to grow our exports and attract higher-quality FDI. The Windsor Framework also protects the thriving All-Ireland economy, and we must fully realise its huge potential.”


O’Neill continues: “This is an Assembly for all – Catholic, Protestant and dissenter. Despite our different outlooks and views on the future constitutional position, the public rightly demands that we co-operate, deliver and work together.

“We must build trust and confidence in our ability to do that. That will require courage and ambition not just from us who are elected but from the public. We can all invest in this and the more of us that do the better the chance it has.

“This powersharing coalition will undoubtedly face great challenges. There are many nettles to grasp.

“The rising cost of living has been a heavy burden on many households and businesses. There are people living from hand to mouth, and they need our support.

“There are too many patients waiting for treatment and support. Our teachers, nurses and all public sector workers are being forced on to the picket line. This demands urgent action.

“Tory austerity has badly damaged our public services. They have presided over more than a decade of shame. They have caused real suffering.

“I wish to lead an Executive which has the freedom to make our own policy and spending choices. We cannot continue to be hamstrung by Tories in London.

“Together, we must unite and fight with one voice the corner of every citizen, to ensure that public services are funded properly.”


Addressing colleagues, she says: “We must be respectful of each other. The days of second-class citizenship are long gone. Today confirms that they are never coming back.

“As an Irish republican, I pledge co-operation and genuine honest effort with those colleagues who are British, of a unionist tradition and who cherish the union.”


Michelle O’Neill is now addressing the chamber.

“I am honoured to stand here as First Minister,” she says. “We mark a moment of equality and progress. A new opportunity to work and grow together. Confident that wherever we come from, whatever our aspirations, we can and must build our future together.

“I am delighted to see every MLA back in this chamber. I welcome the fact that the DUP has decided to re-enter the democratic institutions and that the outcome of the Assembly election is now being respected.

“I look forward to a plenary meeting of the North-South ministerial Council shortly.”

She says the powersharing coalition must now dedicate itself to delivering “an ambitious agenda for change”.


Emma Little-Pengelly has been nominated, as expected, as Deputy First Minister.


Michelle O’Neill has been nominated to the position of First Minister by Sinn Féin MLA Aisling Reilly, who is a 32 year old from West Belfast where she has lived her entire life.


We now move on to the election of First Minister and Deputy First Minister.


UUP MLA Steve Aiken has been elected as Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.


Laughter erupted in the Assembly chamber as Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly mistakenly nominated party colleague Cáral Ní Chuilín for “deputy chief constable” instead of Deputy Speaker post.


Members of the house have been congratulating Poots.

During those contributions, DUP MLA Paul Givan launched a blistering attacking on TUV leader Jim Allister, branding him a political failure and “dead-end unionist”.

Givan condemned Allister’s criticism of newly-elected Speaker, Edwin Poots. Givan in turn heckled Allister. “He’s an angry man”, said Givan.

Things are well and truly up and running again.

We move now to the election of Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.



He says he has always been one of those people who has been “up for the battle, up for the challenge”, but that now his job will be to “calm things down”.

He describes himself as “something of a poacher turned game-keeper”.

He adds that he hopes the Assembly will never be suspended again.

Our focus will be “getting down to business”, he adds.


Edwin Poots has been elected Speaker of the Assembly.

He is now on his feet and is addressing the house.

He says he will not be a perfect speaker, but that he will do the job with respect and integrity.


There have been enough naysayers calling out in the chamber for Poots, that there has been a call for tellers.

Tellers have been appointed. So we wait. The assembly will divide. Ayes to the right, and Nays to the left.

Nothing can happen until a Speaker is appointed.


The vote for Speaker is now taking place.

The house is dividing, and the question will be put in three minutes.


Allister also claimed that “many” on the DUP benches are unhappy with the party’s course of action.


Allister continued his attack on Poots by referencing Poots’ previous calls for “seismic” change to post-Brexit trade rules. Allister say he has gone from “Mr Seismic to Mr Speaker”.


Allister said “not one word of the protocol has changed”, and had chastening words for Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots, whom he said had been seduced by “the irresistible lure of office” and “for whom principles are expendable”.


After a period of relative happy families in the chamber, the first shots have been fired.

Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister says it is a day of “glee and gloating” for republicans.

“Despite all the fake news, attempts to spin defeat as victory, this is a climbdown of monumental proportions,” he says.


Former DUP leader Paul Givan – who collapsed the Assembly this day two years ago when he left the Executive in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements – is on his feet in the Assembly Chamber endorsing and nominating “his good friend and colleague”, the DUP’s Edwin Poots, for the Assembly Speaker’s role.


Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie thanked outgoing Assembly Speaker, Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey, for “all has done”. Beattie describes the task ahead for new Stormont executive as “Herculean”.


UUP MLA Alan Chambers is in the Speaker’s chair as the father of the house – the oldest MLA in the Assembly.

He said it is the sixth time he has taken up the role of acting Speaker in hope of the election of a new permanent Speaker, and is confident that today will be the last occasion, joking he’ll be able to “finally pick up my P45″.

Chambers paid tribute to outgoing Speaker Alex Maskey who sat in the chamber watching proceedings.



Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams is among those in the public gallery at the Northern Ireland Assembly to watch as Michelle O’Neill is nominated as the first nationalist First Minister.

He was joined by Fiachra McGuinness, son of the late former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who served alongside Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson in a previous mandate.


The DUP’s Edwin Poots has been nominated for speaker. The SDLP also nominates Patsy McGlone as Speaker, while the UUP nominates Steve Aiken.


Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said she hopes the next few hours will see a move from “drama on this hill to delivery for the people”.

She said she wants to see Northern Ireland become a more successful, fairer, more prosperous and shared society.

“We are willing, in whatever role comes today, to play our full part in making that happen,” she told media in the Great Hall at Stormont in advance of the Assembly sitting.

“The people of Northern Ireland deserve a government that works for them, and today is the starting point for that.”


Michelle O’Neill is applauded and smiles as she walks alone down the stairs into the Great Hall, the last to enter the Chamber, as she prepares to take up the role of First Minister, the first nationalist to do so.


The DUP MLAs were led down the staircase into the Great Hall by the party leader Jeffrey Donaldson, flanked by MLA Emma Little-Pengelly, expected to take up the role of Deputy First Minister.

It was of course their boycott which suspended the Northern institutions for the last two years.

Mr Donaldson said he was “pleased to be here” for the restoration of the NI Assembly and while the past two years have been “challenging”, he believes his party has delivered “what many said we couldn’t.”


You can watch a live stream from the Great Hall here.


On that earlier question of whether Robin Swann will take the health portfolio, his party leader Doug Beattie refuses to be drawn, saying: “That is a matter for the business committee” during the Assembly sitting.


The DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson is now speaking.

He has called it a “good day for Northern Ireland”.

“While we do not forget our past, we look forward to our future,” he says.

He talks of “peace with our neighbours” and building a Northern Ireland “we can all be proud of”.


Also now in the Assembly chamber are the Ulster Unionists.

Party leader Doug Beattie said on his way in that the restoration of the institutions “will not be no panacea” but it is a “platform to start fixing things” in Northern Ireland.

He says: “I don’t think the last two years of nonsense should have happened” but today is “about looking forward.”

With the SDLP, Alliance and UUP now in the Chamber, the press pack in the Great Hall are awaiting the DUP, and finally, Sinn Féin and the First Minister in waiting, Michelle O’Neill.


SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole has described the day as the assembly returned to Stormont as “historic”.

Speaking in the Great Hall at Assembly Buildings as Northern Ireland’s MLAs prepare to elect a First Minister and Deputy First Minister for the first time in two years, O’Toole made reference to the cult 1993 film Groundhog Day, saying: “Yesterday was groundhog day, but today is the next day.”

“Today something historic will happen,” he said.

“Michelle O’Neill is going to be nominated and appointed as First Minister of Northern Ireland, the first nationalist or republican for that post.

“That is a moment of profound significance, We look forward to wishing her well.”


The Alliance’s 17 MLAs come briefly to the microphone in the Great Hall before making their way into the Assembly chamber. This is a “hugely important day”, party leader Naomi Long says.


Our Northern Editor Freya McClements says there is much chat in the Great Hall about who will get which ministry.

“The speculation currently doing the rounds is that the Robin Swann, who was a popular health minister during the Covid-19 pandemic, will go back into that role as the Ulster Unionists’ sole minister – and that this may have been the pay-off for the UUP agreeing to go into Executive rather than go into Opposition,” she says.




Who could take ministerial roles in a new Stormont Assembly?

Without just under an hour to go until the real business of the day kicks off, you can read Gerry Moriarty’s profiles of the likely movers and shakers here.



While we wait for proceedings to get under way at Stormont, here is some trivia from our Northern Editor Freya McClements

It’s exactly two years to the day since the DUP’s Paul Givan resigned as First Minister, triggering the collapse of the Executive and leading ultimately to Stormont’s two-year absence.

He walked out on February 3rd 2022 – though the stage there wasn’t Parliament Buildings, but the not-quite-as-grand surroundings of a hotel function room in Belfast.

And Michelle O’Neill is not the first O’Neill at the head of government in Northern Ireland. The Unionist Party’s Captain Terence O’Neill was prime minister of Northern Ireland from 1963 to 1969.

Famous for his Ulster at the Crossroads speech, he made efforts to reach out to nationalists, and his meeting with Sean Lemass in 1965 made him the first Northern premier to meet an Irish Taoiseach since partition.

Though he did grant reforms following the emergence of the civil rights movement, they were condemned as too little, too late, and amid increasing violence and growing opposition from harder-line unionists he resigned in 1969.

Speaking of trivia, surely it’s only a matter of time before Michelle O’Neill becomes the answer to a pub quiz question, as the first member of a nationalist party to take up the role of First Minister of Northern Ireland.


For Michelle O’Neill’s part, she will be all too aware that dealing with sexist digs will be an at least occasional part of her job going forward.

Indeed, she has been fending off such distractions with admirable poise for many years already.

“The beauty from a family drenched in blood,” the Daily Mail declared in 2017. “Glossy blonde hair. Bright lipstick. Curled eyelashes. Painted nails. Figure-hugging outfits. Michelle O’Neill certainly isn’t what we expected.”

When Arlene Foster was a DUP First Minister, she was pressed in an interview to sum up her Sinn Féin colleague in a word. “Blonde,” she replied.

“Michelle is very attractive. She presents herself very well and she always is – you know – her appearance is always very ‘the same’.

“You never see her without her make-up. You never see her without her hair perfect.”

Following Foster’s remark, O’Neill responded that there could be no place for sexism or any form of discrimination in public life.



While Jeffrey Donaldson has secured the backing of a majority of party colleagues to accept the deal, some within the DUP remain deeply sceptical of the agreement to restore powersharing.

Donaldson is also facing opposition from elements of unionism outside his party.

His deal with the Westminster government commits to replacing the Windsor Framework’s green lane process at Northern Ireland ports, which requires percentages of goods to be checked as they arrive from Britain.

Taking its place is a “UK internal market system” that will govern the movement of goods that remain within the United Kingdom.

Checks would still be carried out but on a risk-based/intelligence-led model to combat illegality and disease, rather than routine stops of disembarking lorries.


Party leaders met on Friday at Stormont Castle to discuss priorities for the incoming executive.

Speaking after the meeting, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said: “It is important when the executive meets that we have a real sense of what those priorities are for everyone in Northern Ireland.

“We are looking forward to the Assembly meeting, going through the formalities, getting devolution restored.”


While Michelle O’Neill will take the First Minister role due to Sinn Féin winning the most seats in the 2022 election, the DUP has not said who it will nominate for Deputy First Minister, although speculation is Emma Little-Pengelly could get the role.

A series of ministerial positions across Stormont departments will then be filled, using the d’Hondt mechanism based on party strengths.

The d’Hondt mechanism is named after Belgian lawyer and mathematician Victor d’Hondt who developed it in the 1880s as an attempt to better accommodate different linguistic groups and political traditions in the Belgian parliament.

The method assigns seats or positions based on the proportion of votes each party receives in an election. It does this by repeatedly calculating a quotient for each party and giving the next seat or position to the party with the highest quotient.

This enables power to be distributed among parties according to their size, which is important in a diverse political landscape like Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires that the Assembly uses the d’Hondt method when allocating ministerial positions to the Executive (after the offices of First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Justice have been filled) and also when allocating the chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of Assembly committees.

The method allows these leadership positions to be allocated proportionately according to the number of seats that each party won in the Assembly election.



MLAs will gather at Parliament Buildings at Stormont this afternoon for a sitting where ministers will be appointed to a powersharing executive, bringing an end to the impasse.

The DUP, the largest unionist party in the region, has agreed to the recall of the political institutions on the back of its deal with the Westminster government, which party leader Jeffrey Donaldson says has effectively removed the so-called Irish Sea trading border.

On Thursday, two pieces of legislation contained in the agreement were fast-tracked through the House of Commons, opening the way for the Assembly to return.

Business will begin with the election of a Stormont speaker, followed by nominations for the offices of First and Deputy First Minister.


As mentioned, this is a historic moment for Northern Ireland, and for Sinn Féin and Michelle O’Neill in particular – and it has been a long time coming.

Sinn Féin became the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly in the 2022 election, winning the largest share of first-preference votes and the most seats, beating the Democratic Unionist Party into second place.

Sinn Féin won 29 per cent of the first-preference votes, which was the highest share of any party. With 27 out of 90 seats, they became the largest party in Stormont for the first time ever.

As Michelle O’Neill was poised to become the country’s first nationalist First Minister, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary at the time, said: “I encourage the parties to form an executive as soon as possible.”

That wait is finally nearing an end.


Good morning, and welcome to The Irish Times’ live coverage of the events. We will bring you up-to-the-minute coverage of everything that is happening today and all the reaction to it right here.