Northern Ireland’s Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders will shortly begin a new power-sharing government, aimed at putting an end to decades of conflict. Ian Paisley’s DUP and Sinn Fein reached agreement in March this year, after years of deadlock. Paisley, who will be First Minister of the province, believed it should remain part of Britain. But the Catholic Sinn Fein wanted to see it united with the Irish republic to the south.
The road to power-sharing has been a stormy one. “The troubles” saw violence on all sides: British troops against the Provisional IRA; loyalist paramilitaries and Catholics in “tit for tat” killings; bomb attacks targeting civilians, police and politicians.
But talks between political parties and the British and Irish governments led to the Good Friday agreement in 1998. A few years later, the arms decommissioning body confirmed the IRA had put all its weapons beyond use. The residents of Northern Ireland hope their government’s revival will usher in an economic turnaround too.
Europe has promised aid of more than a billion euros. London has pledged close to 75 billion euros over the next 10 years as well. But Paisley thinks the latter is not enough and has threatened not to attend the inauguration as a result. It remains to be seen whether the reality of power-sharing and its effects live up to the high hopes for it.