Stormont House Agreement

Just before Christmas 2014 the 5 main political parties in Northern Ireland managed to cobble together what is now known as the "Stormont House Agreement." This agreement takes its name from the main building in Belfast where the Northern Ireland Assembly is based.

Photo of Stormont Buildings
Stormont Buildings East Belfast

Details of the Stormont Agreement Explained

As you may know Northern Ireland forms part of the UK. The United kingdom Government fund the Northern Ireland Assembly by allocating them funds through what is called a Block Grant. This is done by what is called the Barnett Formula and represents about 93% of the total income that the Assembly has to work with. This figure is around £8 billion.

The current UK Government is run by a coalition of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party and they are going through a pretty severe "austerity policy." In simple terms that means they are cutting a lot of money that is available to the Public Sector and introducing a lo of welfare reform.

The Northern Ireland parties oppose this welfare reform and have tried to oppose it. As a result of not introducing the welfare reforms to N.Ireland, the UK Government imposed a set of fines on the N.I. Assembly.

Setting the Agreement

The position of the Assembly was that they also knew they wanted to rebalance the economy in N.Ireland as it is hugely dependent on the Public Sector. One way of doing this was to have lower Corporation tax, but to get that they would have to agree to introduce some form of welfare reform and also make a lot of job redundancies in the Public Sector. This was what they agreed to do just before Christmas 2014 in the Stormont House Agreement.

Coming Off The Rails

The Agreement was made and signed off on by the 5 main political parties:

  • DUP
  • Sinn Fein
  • Ulster Unionist
  • SDLP
  • Alliance
It was obvious though even at the early stages that there were differences in opinion in what had been agreed. They proceeded on nevertheless as is what they tend to do and all of them made TV and Radio interviews and clearly stated different understandings.

To no big surprise Sinn Fein suddenly pulled the plug on the agreement when they did not agree with the welfare reform element. That happened in early March 2015 and they are now trying to seek clarification and agree something with the other parties, though mainly with the DUP.

To date and in May 2015 the two main parties Sinn Fein and the DUP look farther apart than ever. Sinn Fein want to fight the austerity budget of the Conservative Government that was recently elected in the UK with a huge majority.

The DUP do not like the welfare cuts either but are trying to work within the UK government framework. So yet again a lack of political agreement means that the Stormont agreement lays in tatters and certainly no sign of any implementation.