Sinn Fein

On May 10th 2007, Sinn Fein and the DUP made history. In scenes which many would have considered incomprehensible, Ian Paisley sat as first minister with Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister. Nothing was quite as startling, however, as how well the two men appeared to get on. Soon enough, people were referring to them as 'the chuckle brothers', after they appeared on camera again and again laughing together.

It was a far cry from the problem the party experienced a few years earlier when Paisley refused Sinn Fein's nomination to become first minister. Or the ugly scenes in April 2006 when Denis Donaldson, a party official, was found murdered after being expelled from the party due to his employment by the British government. The real IRA later claimed responsibility.

McGuinness did much to improve his reputation among critical observers after terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland in March 2009. In a tough and definitive performance opposite new first minister Peter Robinson and chief constable Sir Hugh Orde, McGuiness branded the terrorists "traitors" and said: "They have betrayed the political desires, hopes and aspirations of all the people who live in this island."

In early 2010, after a fraught and epic negotiation process, which at one point required outright threats from the British prime minister and Irish taoiseach, Sinn Fein and the DUP finally agreed on the devolution of policing and justice to Northern Ireland. The party won more votes than the DUP in Westminster elections in 2010, but only held its five seats, compared to the DUP's eight. In 2011's elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly Sinn Fein finished second with 29 of 108 seats.