The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland unveiled a breakthrough agreement Friday that saves Northern Ireland's Catholic-Protestant unity government.
Both sides' negotiators gathered at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast to meet Gordon Brown of Britain and Brian Cowen of Ireland, who last week launched a personal mission to prevent the collapse of power-sharing, the central achievement of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord.
Brown said the agreement was possible because of "a new spirit of mutual cooperation and respect."
Cowen, joining him at a press conference with local Catholic and Protestant leaders, called the painstakingly negotiated deal "an essential step for peace, stability and security in Northern Ireland."
The breakthrough came at midnight following 10 days of round-the-clock talks, when the key Protestant party, the Democratic Unionists, announced their lawmakers' unanimous backing for the still-confidential deal on how Northern Ireland will take control of its justice system from Britain. The major Irish Catholic party, Sinn Fein, had declared its support earlier.
Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson, who leads the often-troubled government coalition formed in 2007, defended the marathon nature of the negotiations.
"Over recent weeks there may have been great frustration out in the community," Robinson said. "But there would have been even greater