N. Ireland: Historic power-sharing deal reached

March 26, 2007 15:05

The leaders of Northern Ireland's major Protestant and Catholic parties, sitting side by side for the first time in history, announced a deal Monday to forge a power-sharing administration on May 8. The breakthrough after four and a half years of deadlock followed unprecedented face-to-face negotiations between the British Protestants of Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party and the Irish Catholics of Gerry Adams' Sinn Fein. The two foes - who for years negotiated only via third parties at Paisley's insistence - sat beside each other at a table in the main dining room in Stormont Parliamentary Building in Belfast. But officials on both sides said they did not shake hands. "After a long and difficult time in our province, I believe that enormous opportunities lie ahead for our province," said Paisley, 80, whose party previously boycotted contact with Sinn Fein because of its links to the outlawed Irish Republican Army.

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