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Sunak and Varadkar to meet new leaders of Stormont Executive

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is to visit Northern Ireland to meet the leaders of the new powersharing Executive.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will also be at Stormont for meetings on Monday.

The Assembly returned on Saturday following a two-year political deadlock, with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill making history as Northern Ireland’s first nationalist First Minister.

The institutions were restored following a deal between Mr Sunak’s government and the DUP to allay unionist concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

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Rishi Sunak will be making his seventh visit to Northern Ireland since becoming PM (Ian Forsyth/PA)

The Prime Minister will be welcomed to Stormont Castle on Monday by Ms O’Neill and deputy First Minister, the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly.

During his visit, his seventh to Northern Ireland, he will also carry out a number of community engagements, meeting people involved in public services.

The Government has pledged £3.3 billion for the new Executive to stabilise finances, including £600 million to settle public sector pay claims.

On Thursday, the Government fast-tracked two pieces of legislation contained in the agreement through the House of Commons as part of its agreement with the DUP, opening the way for Saturday’s return of the Assembly.

The new Executive is due to hold its first meeting on Monday.

Stormont Assembly
Michelle O’Neill said Northern Ireland had been starved of funding for public services (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms O’Neill told the PA news agency that it will need to begin work immediately on tackling public sector funding challenges.

She said: “I am determined to do our very best.

“This place has been starved of public services funding for over a decade because of the Tories in London, we can do much better than that.

“That’s a fight I think we have to fight together and I think there’s a combined effort across the Executive to have a proper funding model for here so we actually can do better public services and invest in the public sector workers.”