An agreement by the Democratic Unionist Party to return to power-sharing with Sinn Fein after a two year boycott was greeted by widespread relief.
Britain, Ireland and the United States on Tuesday welcomed a deal to end almost two years of political deadlock in Northern Ireland that will, for the first time, hand the territory’s top leadership role to Sinn Fein, a party that mainly represents Roman Catholic voters committed to a united Ireland.
The breakthrough came in the early hours of Tuesday morning when the Democratic Unionist Party, whose largely Protestant supporters want to remain in the United Kingdom, said it was ready to end a lengthy and crippling boycott of Northern Ireland’s political assembly.
“I believe that all the conditions are now in place for the assembly to return,” said Chris Heaton-Harris, Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
Claire Cronin, the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, said she welcomed the news. “The people of Northern Ireland are best served by a power-sharing government in Stormont as outlined in the Good Friday Agreement,” she wrote on social media, adding that President Biden “has long made clear his support for a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland.”
Ireland’s foreign minister, Micheal Martin, said the imminent restoration of power-sharing was “good news” and that he looked forward to working with the assembly in the future.
The deal between the Democratic Unionist Party, or D.U.P., and the British government opens the door to a seismic change in the politics of modern day Northern Ireland, where the first minister has, up to now, always been drawn from the ranks of the D.U.P.