A fresh start for people in North
The slow, tortuous process of securing agreement between Northern Ireland's dominant political parties finally reached a conclusion last week with the Hillsborough Castle Agreement. At long last a date has been set for the transfer of policing and justice powers back to Northern Ireland -- and, more importantly, it comes in a deal that was negotiated in the North by its own political leaders.
There was outside pressure, but no outside imposition: Peter Robinson's DUP and Gerry Adams' Sinn Fein have come together with their eyes wide open. It is their agreement, and it is their duty to sell it to their own people and to implement it without delay or further rancour. Mr Robinson will have the harder job, as he faces scepticism in his party and in some segments of his political followers. His own leadership of the DUP is also far from secure following the recent revelations about his wife's financial dealings and infidelities. Those difficulties cannot detract, however, from the leadership which he showed during the negotiations. Against the odds, and against expectations, Mr Robinson brought a unanimous parliamentary party to the agreement.
According to Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, the Hillsborough accord "is the last chapter of a long and troubled story and the beginning of a new chapter after decades of violence, years of talks, weeks of stalemate". That is what everyone hopes, but it is likely that there will be more hurdles to be overcome before the April 12 deadline for the transfer of powers has been reached.