Voters decide who will lead Northern Ireland into new era

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — Knowing their choices could make or break their province’s historic peace agreement, Northern Ireland’s voters selected the people Thursday who will govern their divided land in a new power-sharing Assembly.
The implications for the peace process couldn’t be greater in the election, which begins the process of returning government power from London to Belfast after a bloody generation of conflict.
The new, 108-seat Assembly is the central plank of the April 10 accord. Unlike the previous Protestant-dominated parliament that the British abolished in 1972, the Assembly is designed to ensure that neither Protestants nor Catholics can impose their will on the other side.
Hume, a prime architect of the negotiations for the April 10 peace accord, expects his moderate Catholic party to be rewarded at the polls — with an outside chance to become the largest party in the Assembly.
Results won’t be confirmed until late tonight or even Saturday. The Irish national broadcasters RTE planned to present exit poll data soon after Northern Ireland’s 1,220 polling stations closed.