Programme for Government agreed in the North

The North's political leaders are set to unveil their Programme for Government today.

The North's political leaders are set to unveil their Programme for Government today.

Despite delays in agreeing the set of policies and targets for the administration elected in May, they have succeeded in striking deals to overcome major stumbling blocks.

A special sitting of the Stormont Assembly will today discuss the details of the legislative blueprint.

Investment plans and targets for job creation will feature prominently, despite the billions in cuts to the Assembly budget imposed by Westminster.

Yesterday ministers on the ruling Executive held a late-night meeting to agree the final details of their programme.

Ahead of that meeting, political leaders did confirm agreement on a long delayed piece of major reform in education.

A deal has been struck on the creation of an Education and Skills Authority (ESA).

The new body, first proposed six years ago, will replace the long-standing network of education and library boards with a single organisation to streamline administration and deliver major savings.

The parties are also under pressure to make good on a pledge to cut the size of local government.

The DUP and Sinn Féin have agreed that the 26 existing councils be cut to 11.

Before today, the smaller Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP have been critical of the delay in delivering a final Programme for Government.

But First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will show a united front in unveiling a list of priorities which their parties have said will be agreed upon, and will be achievable.

The Stormont leaders are also set to hold talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in Belfast ahead of a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council in the border city of Armagh on Friday.

The regular meeting brings ministers from Ireland north and south to discuss joint plans.

It is hoped the latest meeting will provide clarity on the cross-border A5 road link.

The major dual carriageway, set to form part of a new route linking the north west of the island to Dublin, was thrown into doubt by cuts in spending imposed on the Dublin government by its financial crisis.

But both Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness have said they expect work to continue in some form.

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