Talks will make Irish history - Hain

The St Andrews Agreement may be seen in years to come as a turning point in Irish history, Ulster Secretary Peter Hain said today.

The St Andrews Agreement may be seen in years to come as a turning point in Irish history, Ulster Secretary Peter Hain said today.

As he briefed MPs on last Friday's breakthrough on power sharing at Stormont, he said the potential now existed for a permanent political settlement in the North.

"That we were able to defy the sceptics and cynics and secure the St Andrews Agreement opens the way to a new dawn for democracy in Northern Ireland,'' he said.

"(It opens the way to) A new democracy based for the very first time in Northern Ireland's tangled history on the twin foundations of the rule of law and power sharing.

"Without question, it may come to be seen as a pivotal moment in Irish history."

Last Friday in St Andrews, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British prime minister Tony Blair gave Northern Ireland's politicians a potential deal for reviving power sharing next March and securing the support of republicans for policing.

They were also given a timetable for implementing the new roadmap to devolution.

The parties have until November 10 to indicate whether they will accept the plan.

Once they do that, they will set in train a series of choreographed moves including the election of Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as Stormont's first and deputy first ministers on November 24.

Sinn Féin will be expected to initiate moves towards securing support within the party for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

If the DUP is satisfied the republican movement supports the rule of law and policing, the plan will ultimately lead to power sharing by March 26.

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