Sinn Fein, Northern Ireland's major Republican Party, voted on Sunday to support the province's policing, smoothing the way for power-sharing in the province.
In an overwhelming vote to back the call of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, party members chose at the special conference in Dublin to support the province's police service, ending therefore the party's 86-year-boycott of policing and the criminal justice system, Sky News reported on Sunday.
Hailing the vote result as "historic", the Sinn Fein leader said: "Today you have created the potential to change the political landscape further. Its significance will be how we use this decision to move our struggle forward."
The move is deemed by many as critical to restoring devolution in the province instead of the current direct rule from Westminster.
Ever since the inception of the Northern Ireland state in 1921, republicans who advocate unity with Ireland had refused to recognize the police force in the province. Neither do them endorse the police service of Northern Ireland which was set up in 2001. A spokesman for Tony Blair said the prime minister welcomed the "historic decision and recognized the leadership it has taken to get to this point".
Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern referred to the vote as a "landmark decision", saying: "It is vital that we continue to maintain the momentum from the St Andrews agreement and the timetable set out in that agreement."
Both Blair and Ahern have identified Sinn Fein support for policing in the province as being crucial to power-sharing with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Northern Ireland's largest party which pledges loyalty to the British government, by 26 March.