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8 May 2007: Devolution Day

Northern Ireland Assembly

It was the day that Tony Blair's famous "hand of history" finally got its chance to wave at the mass of invited guests gathered in Stormont's Great Hall.

"Historic" has been a much used word in the politics of Northern Ireland, but on this occasion it seemed wholly appropriate.

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness sat side by side, along with the British and Irish prime ministers, laughing together at times and basking in the glow of restored devolution.

Senator Ted Kennedy looked on, alongside politicians from north and south, and leading figures from civil and religious life.

The new Deputy First Minister, Mr McGuinness, said he wished Ian Paisley every best wish as both men "step forward towards the greatest, yet most exciting, challenge of our lives".

The new First Minister, Mr Paisley, said: "I believe Northern Ireland has come to a time of peace, a time when hate will no longer rule - how good it will be to be part of a wonderful healing in this province."

Earlier in his new offices, Mr Paisley joked that it was ironic that Prime Minister Tony Blair was about to step down from office as a relatively young man, as he was about to take up office, in his 80s.

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