Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009

1 July 1998: Northern Ireland Assembly meets

Northern Ireland Assembly

It was Seamus Mallon's warm pat on David Trimble's shoulder which marked the beginning of their journey as Northern Ireland's first ever First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

The Good Friday Agreement, signed the previous April, paved the way for the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which established the new Assembly.

Both Mr Trimble, the then Ulster Unionist Party leader, and Mr Mallon, the then SDLP deputy leader, received warm applause from most of the MLAs. DUP leader Ian Paisley sat with the rest of his party in silence, refusing to stand and refusing to clap.

The first meeting of the new Assembly took place in the rather less historic venue of Castle Buildings, in the Stormont estate.

In his speech, Mr Mallon said everyone in Northern Ireland could point equally to injustices and apportion blame, but that the Assembly had to work for the best interests of all of the people on the island of Ireland.

In his initial remarks as First Minister, Mr Trimble said the community had been politically impotent over the previous 30 years because of direct rule and that he hoped the new Assembly would help Northern Ireland emerge from the morass of the Troubles.

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