Northern Ireland's leaders have been rewarded with the promise of a new US investment programme after securing a historic deal today which saved power sharing.
Gordon Brown and his Irish counterpart, Brian Cowen, flew into Northern Ireland to put their seal of approval on the deal, which will create a Department of Justice, gives unionists concessions on the issue of Protestant parades and saves the power-sharing executive from collapse.
Brown said the achievements over the longest period of unbroken negotiations since the peace process began 16 years ago were inspirational.
"This 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."
Tonight the White House said Barack Obama saw the deal as "an important step to greater peace and prosperity for all communities on the island."
Obama would also meet Cowen, the DUP leader and first minister Peter Robinson and the deputy first minister, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, in Washington on St Patrick's Day next month.
Earlier, Hilary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said the agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin was a "shining example to other parts of the world locked in religious and ethnic conflicts".
As a result of the deal, she said: "The people of Northern Ireland are poised to build a thriving society on this stronger foundation.
Our economic envoy, Declan Kelly, will continue to help Northern Ireland reap the dividends of peace, including economic growth, international investment and new opportunities.
In the near future, Declan and I will host first minister Robinson and deputy first minister McGuinness in Washington."
The Irish prime minister said the agreement reached "presents a real opportunity to renew the partnership which is the life blood of the devolved institutions. The people of Northern Ireland yearn for this constructive partnership to deliver tangible outcomes that improve their lives."
Referring back to the Belfast agreement of 1998, Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president, described today's agreement as "yet another good Friday." After reaching an agreement just before midnight on Thursday, the parties in the Northern Ireland assembly must now vote to put the compromise package in place. They will vote on 9 March to devolve policing and justice powers, which will then create a justice ministry on 12 April – a key Sinn Féin demand throughout these negotiations.
Under the agreement, a six-member working group, appointed by Robinson and McGuinness, will formulate a framework for handling contentious marches and the phasing out of the Parades Commission.
The new body will encourage local people to find solutions to parading problems, with the rights of marchers and residents taken into account. It will complete its work within three weeks, when the Northern Ireland executive will transfer responsibilities for parading legislation from Westminster and table a new bill based on the group's proposals.
Brown hails 'new chapter' in Northern Ireland as end to years of violence | Politics | The Guardian