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Northern Ireland Commits to Peace with Good Friday Agreement
In 1998, hope for a solution to the troubles in Northern Ireland seemed palpable. A landmark settlement, the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998, called for Protestants to share political power with the minority Catholics and gave the Republic of Ireland a voice in the affairs of Northern Ireland. The resounding commitment to the settlement was demonstrated in a dual referendum on May 22: the North approved the accord by a vote of 71% to 29%, and in the Irish Republic 94% favored it. After numerous stops and starts, the new government in Northern Ireland was formed on Dec. 2, 2000, but it was suspended several times primarily because of Sinn Fein's reluctance to disarm its military wing, the IRA. In 2005, however, the IRA renounced armed struggle, and peace again seemed possible.
Shortly after parliamentary elections in March 2007, Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, and Rev. Ian Paisley, the head of the Democratic Unionist Party, met face to face for the first time and hashed out an agreement for a power-sharing government. The historic deal was put into place in May, when Paisley and McGuinness were sworn in as leader and deputy leader, respectively, of the Northern Ireland executive government, thus ending direct rule from London.