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Jun 20, 2007 at 08:48am IST

Northern Ireland returns to self-rule

New Delhi: Its history in the making as Northern Ireland returns to self-rule, after five long years.

Catholic and Protestant factions set aside their mutual hostility and joined a power-sharing administration on Tuesday.

Such power-sharing was the central goal of the US-brokered Good Friday accord of 1998.

For the first time, the hard-line Democratic Unionist Party – the largest Protestant group – and Sinn Fein, representing the Catholics, will be working together.

Britain and Ireland have toiled to bring both sides together since 2003, when voters made them the dominant parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

DUP's Ian Paisley has been sworn in as the First Minister, while Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness is the new Deputy First Minister.

Their long-polarized parties will jointly run a 12-member administration that took control of the territory's government departments from Britain.

The swearing in ceremony was held on Tuesday at Stormont near the capital Belfast. It was attended by British and Irish Prime Ministers.

The shared agenda include – improve hospitals, schools, roads and other services and formally cooperate with the neighboring Republic of Ireland.