After two weeks of talks, Northern Ireland’s politicians have agreed to take full control of their own police and justice system.
As failure would have meant the end of the Belfast government, the devolution deal has been described as perhaps the “most important” since the 1998 Good Friday agreement.
Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, said: “After decades of violence, years of talks, weeks of stalemate, this is the day we have secured the future – a lasting peace, power being where it should be: in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland, the strongest answer to those who would bring violence back to our streets.”
Sentiments shared by the leader of the pro-British Democratic Unionist party, Peter Robinson.
“No future generation would forgive us for squandering the peace that has been so long fought for. Today’s agreement is the surest sign that there will be no going back to the past,” said Robinson, who is also Northern Ireland’s First Minister.
The main stumbling block had been the issue of a date for transferring powers and a parades commission that oversees marches, a mostly Protestant tradition that has been a flashpoint for sectarian tensions.
If a cross-community vote passes in the assembly next week, police and justice powers will pass to Northern Ireland on April 12.