"This is, essentially, the end of armed struggle," Hillenbrand says. "And it's especially big because of two contradictory elements, both Sinn Fein and the Protestant paramilitaries, are aboard." To the south, in the Irish Republic, the endorsement was even stronger. According to preliminary results, 95 percent have voted not only in favor of peace but in an extraordinary gesture enacted a constitutional amendment dropping the Republic's territorial claim on the six counties of Northern Ireland.
The next step: An election for the new Northern Ireland assembly on June 25 -- and the political wrangling for seats in that body has already begun. But today's vote means that power will no longer be won with bullets and bombs. "This vote says people want to try a new kind of politics," Hillenbrand says. "If I had said four years ago I'd be standing in a room with paramilitaries from all organizations, you'd have had me committed. There's no love between these people." What there is now is peace.