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Northern Ireland Power-Sharing Agreement Demonstrates "New Era"

26 March 2007

State's Dobriansky says agreement allows return of devolved government

Washington -- The agreement between Northern Ireland’s major Protestant and Catholic parties to create a power-sharing administration is “historic” and demonstrates a “new era in Northern Ireland,” according to Paula Dobriansky, the U.S. special envoy on Northern Ireland.

Welcoming the announcement that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by the Reverend Ian Paisley will enter a government with Gerry Adams’ Sinn Fein beginning May 8, Dobriansky, the State Department’s under secretary for democracy and global affairs, said in a March 26 media note that the agreement’s restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive will bring “devolved government back to the people of the province.” 

The United Kingdom, which was due to dissolve the assembly and resume direct rule of Northern Ireland in the absence of a power-sharing agreement, now has agreed to delay the devolution of political power.  The British Parliament is scheduled to vote by March 27 on a bill permitting the 108-member assembly to remain in operation through May 8.  The assembly is expected to elect the 12-member executive administration to govern North Ireland.

Dobriansky congratulated the people of Northern Ireland, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, saying their “leadership throughout the process was critical to bringing a successful conclusion.” 

She said her recent discussions with political leaders, policing officials and community groups “have convinced me that all in Northern Ireland are committed to working toward a better future,” and pledged to continue those discussions in the “critical weeks ahead.”

“I will do all I can to assist the people of Northern Ireland in moving into full and effective government that fully implements the [1998] Good Friday and [2006] St. Andrews agreements,” Dobriansky said.

The timetable in the St. Andrews Agreement, reached October 13, 2006, called for the full restoration of the government of Northern Ireland by March 26, 2007. (See related article.)

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the first meeting between Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein representatives, including Gerry Adams, to conclude the agreement was “historic,” adding that the ability of the Northern Ireland government to “stand up and not require a return to direct rule from Britain” is “certainly a very positive step.”

“[W]e welcome it and certainly hope to see that agreement now implemented,” Casey said.

The full text of the media note is available on the State Department Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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