Stormont’s first nationalist First Minister Michelle O’Neill has pledged to work with unionists to build a better future for Northern Ireland.
The appointment of the Sinn Fein vice president provided a moment of history on the day the powersharing institutions returned after a two-year hiatus.
DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly was nominated as deputy First Minister.
The two top jobs in the ministerial executive wield equal power and responsibility, but the elevation of a republican to the office of first minister, by virtue of Sinn Fein becoming the region’s largest political party in the 2022 Assembly election, is undoubtedly a significant symbolic moment for Northern Ireland.
The DUP, the largest unionist party in the region, has agreed to the recall of the political institutions on the back of its deal on post-Brexit trade with the UK Government, which party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says has effectively removed the so-called Irish Sea trading border on goods remaining within the UK.
On Thursday, the Government fast-tracked two pieces of legislation contained in the agreement through the House of Commons, opening the way for the Assembly to return on Saturday.
The proceedings commenced with the process of nominating a speaker, with former DUP leader Edwin Poots elected to the role.
Addressing the chamber after her appointment was confirmed and she affirmed the pledge of office, Ms O’Neill said the restoration of the institutions marked a “moment of equality and progress”.
“A new opportunity to work and grow together,” she said.
“Confident that wherever we come from, whatever our aspirations, we can and must build our future together.
Ms O’Neill said the public were relying on each of us to act in their best interests and to serve our whole community in good faith.
“We must make powersharing work because collectively, we are charged with leading and delivering for all our people, for every community,” she said.
“In common cause we must make life better for workers, families, communities. To create hope and opportunity.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub