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New day dawns on steps of Stormont

By Lesley-Anne Henry

As the sun rose over Stormont this morning the enormity of the day began to dawn.

Although official proceedings weren't due to start until 9am, Stormont staff, security and media gathered from first light.

A train of up to 15 media satellite trucks snaked along in front of the historic building while journalists from Ulster, England, America and Europe milled around at the foot of the steps.

There were three broadcasting tents and the media centre, a large white tent at the top of the Prince of Wales Drive, was a hive of activity from 7am.

Given Michael Stone's attempted bomb attack on Stormont on November 26, security was not as tight as expected. Sniffer dogs and police were combing the ground, while dogs also checked media vans and cars.

However, taxis were allowed to drop guests close to the door.

There was a relatively small uniformed police presence with only a couple of Land Rovers visibly patrolling the ground.

Civilian security guards were at all three entrances to Stormont.

MLAs began arriving at the West Door from around 8am and all had to go through the security tents at the east side of the building before walking across the front steps.

Among the first to arrive was Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey and Secretary of State Peter Hain, who was giving interviews on the front lawn from early morning.

There was a constant stream of cars coming from the Prince of Wales Drive and Massey Avenue entrances.

Deputy First Minister designate Martin McGuinness arrived ahead of his new partner, Ian Paisley.

Among the dignitaries invited to a special reception following the transfer of power were Duncan Morrow of the Community Relations Council and north Belfast priest Father Aidan Troy.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "It is a huge day, it is a great day and I think everyone recognises it as a new beginning.

"I am very grateful that we have reached this point, if you think back to even just a few years ago in my own community where we had very serious rioting and the trouble at Holy Cross School. I, personally, believe it will work, I recognise the great difficulty but, yes, I do believe it will work."

Belfast Telegraph


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