A breakthrough agreement between Britain and Northern Ireland will see the province take control of its own justice system. After months of deadlocked negotiations, Prime Ministers Gordon Brown of Britain and Brian Cowen of Ireland announced the plan at a joint press conference Friday alongside the leaders of the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Catholic republican group, Sinn Fein, who share power in Northern Ireland’s Stormont Assembly. The “Agreement at Hillsborough Castle” calls for policing and justice in Northern Island to shift from Parliament to the Assembly by April 12, the same day by which the political rivals of Ireland’s power-sharing government are expected to choose a justice minister. The agreement combines Sinn Fein’s demands for Irish control over the department with the DUP’s calls for increased oversight of often violent loyalist parades. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauded the hard-won agreement, saying: “This has not been an easy road. There were plenty of bumps along the way. I have been in regular contact with the parties since my trip to Belfast in October, and I know that at times the path forward was far from clear.” Clinton also took the opportunity to invite DUP head Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness to Washington to discuss American investment in Northern Island. While more politically stable, the country is battling an economic downturn, with over 8000 manufacturing jobs lost in the last year, some due to American companies pulling out of the region.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda has announced he will set up a new quality control committee after the recall of more than eight million cars worldwide due to floor mat and gas pedal problems. In a press conference in Nagoya, Japan, on Friday, Toyoda said the company will address reported braking problems with the much lauded, planet-saving Prius hybrid car (there have been 200 reports of brake problems with the 2010 Toyota Prius in the United States)—but stopped short of announcing the recall of some 270,000 cars, which some analysts were expecting. Toyoda, who had been conspicuously silent to date, made the appearance to allay worries, and said, “I’d like to offer a heartfelt apology for causing so much trouble to so many of our customers.” The announcement came after Toyota Motor Corp. reported a net income of $1.68 billion for the last three months of 2009, up from a loss of about $1.82 billion one year earlier.
At least 32 people are dead after the third attack in a week struck pilgrims at a major religious ceremony south of Baghdad. In Friday’s twin car bombing, a suicide attacker exploded a car bomb moments after another car bomb detonated near a crowded highway just east one of three main entrances to Kerbala, a city 50 miles south of Baghdad where Shiite pilgrims have been celebrating the holy day of Arbaeen. The attack came shortly after noon and the area was also struck by two mortar rounds following the first explosions; more than 70 people were wounded and the death toll is expected to rise. It follows similar attacks on the festival on Wednesday, when a motorcycle bomb exploded near the site of Friday’s detonation, killing dozens, and Monday, when a suicide bomber killed at least 54 pilgrims north of Baghdad. Advisor to the Iraqi Council of Ministers Saad al-Muttalabi has blamed Al Qaeda and former Baathists. Al Jazeera reports that around 30,000 troops and police have been deployed to protect Shiite pilgrims from further attacks, but the large numbers of worshipers and difficulty securing the roads and city have made Kerbala a prime target for suspected Sunni militants.