Until the establishment of the current executive, Northern Ireland's only previous experience of shared government was in the 1970s - and that lasted for only five months.
Governments of the day and parties on both sides of the conflict have tried, to varying degrees, to set up a powersharing assembly since London imposed direct rule in 1972.
After a series of negotiations, the first powersharing executive was set up at the end of 1973. An agreement at Sunningdale established the idea of a Council of Ireland which would include the Dublin government. It was seen as an integral part of any lasting peace settlement.
Some Unionists led by the chief executive of the powersharing administration, Brian Faulkner, were prepared to tolerate a limited all Ireland council but the majority of unionist opinion feared it was a stepping stone to a united Ireland.
In May 1974, they embarked on a two-week strike that led to a standstill in the province. Intimidation was widespread but it demonstrated the depth of loyalist opposition and their power. By the end of May, the executive had collapsed.