Belfast Telegraph

Leaders hail first devolved term

The completion of the first full term of devolved government in Northern Ireland for 40 years has been hailed as a historic achievement by Stormont leaders.

As the four-year mandate of the powersharing administration drew to a close, Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the job at hand was now to build on the progress achieved since 2007.

"When this term began I think most doubted that this institution would survive," Mr Robinson told the Assembly on its final sitting prior to May's election.

"But now nobody, not even the wreckers who want to bring devolution to an end, question its stability or sustainability."

Mr McGuinness said the DUP/Sinn Fein-led executive, which also includes representatives from all the other main parties, had made decisions of vital importance and passed legislation of benefit to the community.

"I think that has been a wonderful achievement," he said.

The Deputy First Minister also reflected on the occasion when he and his once forsworn rival Ian Paisley entered government together and recalled a meeting years previously with Tony Blair when he said the then-prime minister voiced concern that devolution would ever be restored.

"I knew my fellow Ulstermen and women better than that," he said.

"I always had confidence that we could restore the institutions, it took five years but it was a momentous day on May 8 (2007) whenever the First Minister at that time Ian Paisley and myself came together and effectively launched this adventure which has lasted the four years and which I think has brought huge benefits for our entire community."

Mr Paisley resigned as First Minister and DUP leader a year later and was replaced by Peter Robinson. Mr McGuinness paid tribute to both men and said it had been an honour to work with them.

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