The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a critical vote allowing for the creation of a Department of Justice for Northern Ireland by April 12, providing a massive boost for the peace process.

A new Justice Minister will be named in the coming weeks, with Alliance Party leader David Ford the frontrunner.

Out of the 105 votes cast, a total of 88 were in support of the move, with only the Ulster Unionist Party voting against, despite a major effort to get them to change their vote.

Democratic Unionist leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson attacked the UUP decision to vote against the motion.

“I believe it is time for us all to move forward. There must be no going back to the bad old days of the past.

“Throughout history there are times of challenge and defining moments. This is such a time. This is such a moment,” he said.

U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland Declan Kelly welcomed today’s vote and praised the decision to move forward with the devolution of policing and justice powers. 

“The vote by the Northern Ireland Assembly builds on the important agreement that was announced last month, and I congratulate the Northern Ireland political leadership on this significant achievement.

“Building on this momentum, next week First Minister Robinson, deputy First Minister McGuinness and Minister Foster will join me in the U.S. on a multi-city visit.

"They will meet with Secretary Clinton, the leaders of major U.S. Corporations and attend several large-scale events highlighting the investment opportunities in Northern Ireland.

"At the same time, over a dozen Northern Ireland companies will take part in a trade mission to the U.S. where they will meet with new potential trade partners.”