| 3.2°C Dublin

North's power-share dealmakers to meet Obama

Political leaders from the North are to meet Barack Obama on St Patrick's Day, following their deal to save the power-sharing government.

The US president said yesterday's breakthrough was an important step on the path to greater peace and prosperity.

Stormont Assembly First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness travel to Washington DC on March 17. A White House statement said Obama "appreciates the personal contributions and steadfast support of the Taoiseach and the UK's Prime Minister Gordon Brown in support of the historic agreement achieved by Northern Ireland leaders".

Party leaders meet in Belfast next week to consider their nomination for justice minister as part of the power-sharing deal. Alliance Party head David Ford is favourite for the post but will face Ulster Unionist Party opposition. Mr Brown said the agreement to save the province's government could end years of political stalemate.

The decision by the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein will see policing and justice powers devolved from Westminster by April 12, but the blueprint's ambitious plan for action across a number of areas will require continued co-operation between the politicians. Brian Cowen and Mr Brown joined Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness yesterday to unveil the deal at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, where the parties held nearly two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton praised the agreement, which meets republican demands for the transfer of law and order powers, while detailed timetables also set out a framework to meet unionist calls for a new system to oversee loyalist order parades.