On 6 November, David Trimble and Mark Durkan were successfully elected First and Deputy First Minister respectively by the Assembly in Northern Ireland. As I said in my reply to the earlier priority question, the period since has been a highly productive one in all the institutions created under the Agreement.
The Assembly has been advancing its work, including reaching cross-community agreement on its budget for the period 2002-2003 in December. The Executive has also been operating successfully. I welcomed the appointments of Seán Farren as Minister for Finance and Personnel and Carmel Hanna as Minister for Employment and Learning in December, and wished them, and their colleagues, continuing success in their work. It was also encouraging to note the recent successful visits of the First and Deputy First Minister to Europe and the United States, including the formal opening of the offices of the Northern Executive in Brussels and Washington.
I have long been of the view that if we are to succeed in advancing matters across the range of issues, a sustained period of political calm, in which the institutions work on a full and inclusive basis, was necessary. I believe that this is now possible.