Northern Ireland has taken an important step toward a lasting peace. Its two largest political parties, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, have agreed on a roadmap and timeline for the devolution of policing and justice powers after months of a political standoff.
Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams called the deal a "wonderful chance" for Northern Ireland to move forward. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the devolution of policing and justice powers will take place on April 12th. In addition, the British government has agreed to provide 1.26 billion dollars to finance the devolution process.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the accord "will help consolidate the hard-won gains of the past decade." But this is not the end of the journey, cautioned Secretary Clinton. So far, the devolution process has enabled Northern Ireland's leaders to enact a range of needed reforms, from health to housing to environmental safety. Now they have even greater authority, and with that authority comes greater responsibility. "The people of Northern Ireland," said Secretary Clinton, "are poised to build a thriving society on this stronger foundation -- a country where neighbors can live free from fear and all people have the potential to fulfill their God-given rights."
The United States joins the world in looking to the leaders of Northern Ireland to build on their efforts by promoting a new spirit of cooperation among all of the parties. The U.S. will do its part to help. Economic envoy to Northern Ireland Declan Kelly will continue to assist Northern Ireland to develop economically through increased international investment. In the near future, Secretary Clinton along with Mr. Kelly will host Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to discuss further investment in Northern Ireland and ways to build on the devolution agreement.
A new chapter of partnership among Northern Ireland's political leadership can now begin. "And I am confident," said Secretary Clinton, "that the people of Northern Ireland will make the most of this moment."