Rishi Sunak, the UK Chancellor, has expressed optimism during his visit to Northern Ireland following the restoration of a power-sharing executive that ended a two-year political deadlock. Sunak, who arrived in Belfast on Sunday evening, is scheduled to meet with Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, the first nationalist first minister at Stormont. The Chancellor welcomed the recent progress in the region and stressed the special opportunity for political leaders to focus on delivering for families and businesses. The visit follows the reconvening of Stormont’s assembly and the formation of a new executive, with political leaders seeking urgent funding to address public service and infrastructure challenges.
During his visit, Sunak met with volunteers and the crew at the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland in Lisburn, highlighting the services that the executive can now focus on with the new deal in place. The prime minister’s visit aims to build on the success of restoring devolved government after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ended its boycott. Sunak is expected to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and discussions will likely include funding for public services, healthcare, and other sectors. The UK government has pledged £3.3 billion to stabilise finances in Northern Ireland, addressing long-standing concerns about funding shortages. The executive faces significant challenges, and Sunak’s visit is seen as an opportunity to showcase political progress and address pressing issues.