I have to say I'm impressed. While Bush and the Queen were dancing around grammatically, other world leaders were actually doing something.
Next thing you know the Methodists will start talking to the Baptists!
Power sharing begins in N. Ireland
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Northern Ireland's major Protestant and Catholic parties joined together Tuesday to form a power-sharing government, marking a "new era of politics" and an end to three decades of sectarian conflict in the province.
Protestant Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley was sworn in as the Northern Ireland assembly's first minister and key player Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein will take on the role of deputy first minister.
The two men bridged the sectarian divide and took oaths of office in front of a quiet assembly room with members foregoing applause out of respect for a recently deceased assembly member and colleague from Paisley's DUP, George Dawson.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern attended the swearing-in ceremony at Stormont, home to the Northern Ireland assembly, near Belfast. (Watch the long path Northern Ireland took to get to this point)
Paisley, 80, and McGuinness, 56, arrived within minutes of each other Tuesday morning and both set an optimistic tone.
"It is a special day because we're making a new beginning," Paisley said. "I believe we're starting on a road which will bring us back to peace and to prosperity."
Paisley's deputy McGuinness, said he was "increasingly confident" that the new government would work, saying it was a "good day."
"The happenings here today are surely going to represent a fundamental change of approach with parties moving forward together to build a better future for the people that we represent," he said.
In committing his party to the deal, Adams said there would be challenges ahead, but added the deal marked the start of "a new era of politics on this island."
He said the new government brought with it the potential for a new beginning after many years of violence.
"I think what today proves is that dialogue and perseverance and tenacity and persistence can bring about results," Adams said. "We are going to succeed."
A fresh start
"It's a day that many people thought would never come," said CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley, adding that the coming together of two politically opposite poles was like "the lion laying down with the lamb."
Decades of violence in the province have killed at least 3,600 people and injured 36,000.
Oakley said the steady normalization of life after ceasefires and the laying down of arms would be cemented by the power sharing agreement. He added that while disputes and disagreements would still happen, the peace agreement "restored a degree of normal politics."
"It is a development that makes such a difference to the lives of ordinary people here in Northern Ireland," Oakley said. "We can say this is that day that politics takes over from terrorism here in Northern Ireland," he added.
Dr. Brendan O'Duffy, a senior lecturer with Queen Mary University in London, told CNN there was still a threat of political gridlock and a lot of work to do looking forward. But goodwill between the players and the "delicate power sharing" would allow people to "clash constitutionally instead of violently," he said.
In another development last week, the Ulster Volunteer Force, the most powerful Protestant paramilitary group, said it would put its weapons "beyond reach" of further use against Catholics, bolstering the peace process, a Reuters report said. (Full story)
Blair's crowning jewel
With British Prime Minister Blair expected to depart Downing Street next month after 10 years in power, Oakley said the Northern Ireland peace deal would be the crowning jewel of a political legacy tarnished by Iraq and political scandals.
While Blair dedicated a large part of his time in office to the peace process in Northern Ireland, Oakley said the agreement had involved the efforts of many world leaders over the years including former British PM John Major and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
While the power-sharing government would attend to Northern Ireland's day-to-day affairs, Oakley said decisions on issues of policing would still be made from London.
The parties will share responsibility for the ministries with the DUP running the finance, economy, environment and culture portfolios and Sinn Fein taking on education, regional development and agriculture.