But challenges lie ahead
The Good Friday Institutions have finally been restored this week following Saturday's meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council. The first meeting of the restored Executive is scheduled for Thursday, 1 June, while ministers, including Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brún, returned to their posts on Tuesday morning.
The motion to return to the institutions was carried by 459 votes to 403. This 53% support for David Trimble was enough to secure his leadership but the UUC is clearly split, almost down the middle, and UUP rejectionists have threatened to use their increased numbers within the party to work against the implementation of the Agreement.
ti-Agreement Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson failed to table an expected amendment to the leadership motion, demanding that the UUP revert to its ``no guns, no government policy''. Donaldson spoke against Trimble's motion instead.
While power was restored to the institutions at midnight on Monday, 29 May, concern over the future of policing and other issues overshadowed the belated progress. At the very last stage, UUP Deputy Leader John Taylor returned from the Far East to say he would back a return to government by the party, waving about a letter from Peter Mandleson which he alleged gave him the necessary ``assurances'' in relation to the RUC to enable him to support to Trimble.
These claims have caused considerable concern and indeed anger among nationalists, already angry at the British government's dilution of the Patten proposals on policing. Causing particular concern are persistent and undenied reports that the words `Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)' would be incorporated into the title of a new policing service. Controversy is also growing around the issue of the flying of flags from Executive department buildings, with unionists seeking to impose the flying of the British Union Jack on all buildings.
Although most of the ten Executive Ministers returned to their departments on Tuesday morning, Democratic Unionist Party ministers Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds were absent.
On Tuesday, the DUP revealed its latest convoluted strategy to bring down the Good Friday Agreement. In the wake of the latest political developments Ian Paisley's party will seek to exclude Sinn Féin from the Executive through a motion to the Assembly.
In the event that the party does not secure 60 percent unionist support for this already doomed bid, it has threatened to resign its two ministerial seats and nominate short-term replacements on an ongoing basis to ensure the posts cannot be filled by pro-Agreement parties.
So, the difficulties in implementing political change in the North and throughout the island haven't gone away. The challenge for republicans and for all Irish democrats remains. There are many hurdles to be overcome but struggle is what republicans are good at and well practised in. We are up for the challenge ahead.