Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Day Doctor No Decided He Could Say 'Yes'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Day Doctor No Decided He Could Say 'Yes'

Article excerpt

Byline: By Deric Henderson and Dan McGinn

The Rev Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams struck the peace deal of a lifetime yesterday in an extraordinary act of reconciliation which cleared the way for a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

The leaders of unionism and republicanism sat down together at a specially arranged diamond shaped table in a dining room at Parliament Buildings in Belfast and pulled off a political triumph which stunned London, Dublin and Washington.

Even though restoration of the Stormont Assembly was delayed for another six weeks, the two men agreed a deal which will have both sides in face-to-face talks starting immediately in advance of Mr Paisley ( nicknamed Dr No for his decades of shouted intransigence ( being declared First Minister on May 8.

Martin McGuinness, the IRA street fighter from Londonderry and still loathed by some of the Democratic Unionist leader's closest associates, will be sworn in as Deputy First Minister.

Not since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has there been a development on this scale. Arguably what happened at Stormont yesterday was even greater because of its potential to deliver a lasting settlement which could finally end stop-start government.

The two men met just after 11am in the impressive members' dining room as part of a brilliantly choreographed sequence in which nothing was left to chance.

The tables were arranged in such a way that the two would be sitting side by side within touching distance in a symbolic gesture which would resonate to all corners of the community.

First in was Mr Paisley and 10 colleagues who marched from their third floor offices. Sinn Fein followed after Mr Adams briefed his team in a ground floor front office.

The sense of occasion ( and history ( was not lost on anybody present either.

One member of the Sinn Fein delegation who was never far from Mr Adams over the last 20 years said: "You really had to pinch yourself. …

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