Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the head of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said in a late-night press conference that his party has agreed to a package of measures, paving the way for the restoration of Stormont. 

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government for nearly two years after the DUP withdrew then-First Minister Paul Givan as a matter of protest to post-Brexit trade agreements.

On Monday evening, the DUP held a secretive meeting where it discussed and ultimately agreed upon a package of measures that the party feels meets its requirements to return to Stormont.

The measures have not yet been made public.

The meeting and announcement were held less than a week after the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill received Royal Assent extending the Executive Formation period from January 18 to February 8.

In a press conference that began after midnight on Tuesday morning, Donaldson told reporters: “Our goal has been to secure the conditions that allow for the return of devolved government on a sustainable basis where it can make a real and meaningful improvement in the lives of all of the people of this part of the United Kingdom.

“The officers, Assembly group, parliamentary group, and the central executive of the Democratic Unionist Party have now been briefed and considered all aspects of our negotiations between the UK government and the DUP.

“I am pleased to report that the party executive has now endorsed the proposals that I have put to them.

“The party has concluded that, subject to the binding commitments between the Democratic Unionist Party and the UK government being fully and faithfully delivered as agreed, including the tabling and passing of new legislative measures in Parliament and final agreement on a timetable, the package of measures in totality does provide a basis for our party to nominate members to the Northern Ireland Executive thus seeing the restoration of the locally elected institutions.

“We recognize that significant further advances have been achieved through these negotiations and the details of the new package of new measures will be published by the UK government in due course."

Donaldson said he believes the package "safeguards Northern Ireland’s place in the Union and will restore our place within the UK internal market" and that it will "remove checks for goods moving within the UK and remaining in Northern Ireland and will end Northern Ireland automatically following future EU laws."

He said there will be legislation "to provide new, legal, and practical protections for the Acts of Union and which guarantees unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the rest of the United Kingdom.

“In the coming days, in addition to the publication of the details of the new package of proposals, the UK government will be required to deliver on the legislative commitments they have made to us.

“I am pleased to indicate that we have also secured a basis for cross-party support at Westminster for the measures negotiated.

“Therefore, regardless of who forms the next UK government, these agreed measures will be taken forward beyond the forthcoming general election."

He continued: “Throughout this process, we have been clear and have made clear we will only be able to move after the government faithfully delivers on the implementation of its legal and other commitments.

“The package of measures will require a significant number of actions to be taken and we look forward with confidence to their ongoing implementation according to an agreed timeline.

“Upon that basis, the Democratic Unionist Party would support the calling of a meeting of the Northern Ireland Assembly to elect a Speaker and to facilitate the nomination of Ministers.

“In advance of the UK government delivering on its commitments as part of the package of measures agreed with us and the passing of new legislation through the House of Commons, there is important preparatory work so that local ministers, when nominated, can hit the ground running and I will be discussing this with other parties in the coming days."

Northern Ireland's Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said the development is "a welcome and significant step."

MaryLou McDonald, the President of Sinn Féin, whose party is entitled to the First Minister position, said she is "optimistic."

"Sinn Féin will now engage with the parties and both governments to ensure we now all press on without delay. 

"It is vital there is political stability to address the scale of the crisis across our public services.

"Let's now focus minds on the job at hand and to the solutions required to support workers and families who want and deserve functioning government."