Obama welcomes agreement on Ulster power sharing

Barack Obama said last night that Northern Ireland's power-sharing deal was an important step on the path to greater peace and prosperity.

The United States president said he was looking forward to meeting political leaders behind the agreement on St Patrick’s Day in Washington DC. A White House statement said: “The president appreciates the personal contributions and steadfast support of the Taoiseach and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in support of the historic agreement achieved by Northern Ireland leaders today, which is an important step on the pathway to greater peace and prosperity for all communities on the island.”

Irish premier Brian Cowen and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will meet Mr Obama at the White House on St Patrick’s Day to discuss progress.

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The agreement struck by the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein will see policing and justice powers devolved from Westminster by April 12, but the blueprint’s ambitious plan for action across a number of areas will require continued co-operation between politicians.

The UK and Irish premiers joined Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness to announce the deal at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, where the parties held nearly two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations.

The 21-page document produced includes systems to try to ensure greater co-operation in the power-sharing government of unionists, republicans and nationalists.

Comment: Page 12.