Hillsborough Castle Agreement

The castle`s State Apartments have been recently renovated and re-elected as a traditional Irish house that lends itself to hosting royal ceremonies. Alongside his Irish counterpart Brian Cowen, at a press conference at Hillsborough Castle, near Belfast, the Prime Minister said the "inspiring" deal between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was a basis for lasting peace. DUP leader Peter Robinson said the deal would be more sustainable "because of the time spent on training it". Since the 1970s, the castle has served as a political refuge and has been the site of a series of important negotiations as part of the peace process. In 1985, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in the State Drawing Room at Hillsborough Castle by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Irish Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. The SDLP argued that under the D`Hondt mechanism contained in the Good Friday Agreement, it is entitled to the Department of Justice, while the UUP today refused to participate in a roundtable with the British and Irish Prime Ministers because it had no view of the agreement. Hillsborough is an Irish big house of the late eighteenth century rather than a castle. It was very common for the wealthy upper class, mostly Anglo-Irish, to call its large country houses "castles", as this reinforced the antiquity of their families. Sinn Féin was in a hurry to achieve decentralisation of justice before the Westminster elections, but it launched negotiations a week after the date they are due to leave.

The DUP faltered at the beginning of the week, with only a small majority of its assembly members backing an agreement on the basis of what was on the table at the time. However, this agreement underscores the extent to which both sides need an operational executive to remain relevant. Brown told reporters: "The successes have been as great as they have been inspiring. This moment and this agreement belongs to the people of Northern Ireland, to all peoples, and more than ever to their future. This is the last chapter in a long troubled history and the beginning of a new chapter after decades of violence, years of discussions, weeks of deadlock. A UUP spokeswoman said members wanted to see the proposed deal before giving their response to the two governments. "We don`t have this agreement in sight and until we do, we won`t sign it," she said. The discussions that focused on Hillsborough Castle, outside Belfast, are the longest continuous negotiations that have taken place in nearly 20 years of peace process. Sinn Féin had accused the DUP of delaying the delegation of police powers over the past three years and there were fears that the failure of a deal would lead to the collapse of the government led by both sides.

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