Early Christmas present: deal reached in North

The Irish and British governments and the five Northern Executive parties reached a wide-ranging agreement on budget and welfare reform, as well as the legacy of the Troubles and other contentious issues such as flags and Orange parades.

“On one of the darkest days in the bleak midwinter we have forged a broad agreement that will undoubtedly give rise to brighter days in Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland and indeed throughout the island of Ireland,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, as reported in The Irish Times.

The agreement, which still requires final ratification, also could clear the way for Northern Ireland to reduce its corporate tax rate, now 21 percent, to the same as Ireland’s, 12.5 percent, The New York Times said. That could happen by 2017, according to the The Wall Street Journal.