The British Government published its "Safeguarding the Union" command paper today, Wednesday, January 31, and Northern Ireland's Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris has introduced statutory instruments to make the package law.

The package, Heaton-Harris told the British House of Commons, "protects Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom," "promotes and strengthens the UK internal market," will "recognize the importance of the connections across the United Kingdom now and in the future," and will "help put public services on a sustainable footing."

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who brought down power-sharing in Northern Ireland in protest of some post-Brexit trade arrangements nearly two years ago, announced on Tuesday that they would conditionally endorse the package, paving the way for the long-awaited restoration of Stormont.

Heaton-Harris said on Wednesday: “With this package, it is now time for elected representatives in Northern Ireland to come together to end the two years of impasse and start to work again in the interests of the people who elected them.

"The Rt Hon Member for Lagan Valley [DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson] was clear this week that this depended on this Government demonstrating its commitment to the Union in not just word but in deed.

"And that is just what we will do. Today I am publishing the details of this deal. But I am also laying the statutory instruments that enshrine several of its commitments in law. 

"Those instruments will be debated in this House tomorrow - subject to a change in business in the future with the House - an immediate show of good faith.

"And once, as I hope they will be, they are passed by this House, I trust we will have the conditions to move onwards to see Ministers back in post in Stormont swiftly.”

📽️ Today in Parliament the Secretary of State @chhcalling set out a package of key measures which will allow Northern Ireland to achieve its massive potential.

Read the full statement here:

— Northern Ireland Office (@NIOgov) January 31, 2024

Heaton-Harris, who commended DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for his advocacy throughout negotiations, also acknowledged “that for many in the community, an important part of this will be seeing Michelle O’Neill take her place as First Minister, following the democratic mandate she won at the May 2022 Assembly election - recognizing that the First and deputy First Ministers remain equal in law.

"I look forward to working with the new First Minister, deputy First Minister, all their colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive to improve the lives of people from all backgrounds, whether unionist, nationalist or other.”

Heaton-Harris urged Northern Ireland’s parties to notify the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly to recall Stormont, elect a First and Deputy First Minister, and appoint new Ministers to the Executive.

As such, Speaker Alex Maskey wrote to MLAs today advising them that preparations are being made "to enable a sitting of the Assembly to be held at short notice, if required."

The Speaker has issued the following correspondence to MLAs:

"You will be aware from events in the last 48 hours that the Assembly may be in a position to elect my successor and appoint Ministers in the time ahead. 1/

— Northern Ireland Assembly (@niassembly) January 31, 2024