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Historic moments don't come much bigger than the Paisley McGuinness power sharing deal

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness formed a partnership that earned them the title of the Chuckle Brothers. pic Colm O'Reilly.

In a place used to 'hand of history' moments, it would be easy to become apathetic, but even seasoned commentators were surprised by the political union that would later become known as the 'Chuckle Brothers'.

Martin McGuinness, the one time IRA commander and unrepentant republican, side by side with firebrand unionist preacher Ian Paisley, the man who vowed, to "never, never, never" give an inch to republicans.

Ten years ago to the day, the two one time sworn enemies sealed a deal that would restore power sharing and hail the start of a lengthy period of political stability.

Both men have since past away and the devolved assembly they worked so hard to establish lies in an uncertain limbo.

But the legacy of that time should not be underestimated.

As the two men were sworn in as First and Deputy First Minister, posts equal in power if not name, it signalled a new dawn for Northern Ireland.

If two men from such opposing political backgrounds could find common ground then there was hope for us all in a place still war weary and hurting from years of violence.

For Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair this was their legacy moment, the one thing the two leaders wanted to be remembered for long after they retired.

With Mr Ahern's term in office tainted by his personal financial affairs and Tony Blair's by the disastrous decision to go to war with Iraqi based on flawed intelligence, this would indeed be the high point in both their careers.

But on that bright spring day as they gathered on the steps of Stormont, there was optimism in the air.

Even the most seasoned political commentators were uncharacteristically hopeful.

Irish News Political Correspondent, since retired veteran journalist William Graham, said at the time Northern Ireland had "entered a new political world" and described it as "one of the most astonishing moments in the Irish peace process".

In his inaugural speech the late Ian Paisley said "How true are the words of Holy Scripture, 'We know not what the day may bring forth'. I believe Northern Ireland has come to a time of peace, a time when hate will no longer rule".

Martin McGuinness spoke in an equally conciliatory manner when he rose to his feet and wished Ian Paisley "all the best as we step forward toward the greatest yet most exciting challenge of our lives".

Politics in Northern Ireland is full of surprise and remarkable events but the unique partnership between Paisley and McGuinness is one that will never be replicated.

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