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The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Speculation continues as to whether Peter Mandelson can ever return to an influential position"
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Defence Minister, Geoff Hoon
"He will be a loss to the Labour Party"
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Sinn Fein Chairman, Mitchel McLaughlin
"We will concentrate on moving the peace process forward"
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Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson
Resignation speech
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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 09:32 GMT
Parties' 'fair wind' for Reid
Stormont assembly buildings
John Reid arrives at a key stage in the peace process
Senior members of Northern Ireland's political parties have been welcoming Peter Mandelson's replacement as secretary of state.

Dr John Reid, who was secretary of state for Scotland until his appointment to fill the Belfast post, is due to arrive in Northern Ireland on Thursday afternoon.

John Reid
John Reid: Do all I can to make agreement work
His appointment on Wednesday night follows the resignation of Peter Mandelson and comes at a critical time in the in the peace process as intensive talks are under way aimed at breaking the deadlock.

The British and Irish governments have been having intense negotiations with Northern Ireland parties in an attempt to resolve the issues of police reform, paramilitary decommissioning and demilitarisation, which are threatening to destabilise the province's powersharing institutions.

Mr Mandelson resigned after admitting he had made misleading statements over the passport application of controversial Indian billionaire Srichand Hinduja who gave a million pounds to the Millennium Dome.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor said Dr Reid was a "straight-forward, likable personality".

"He's certainly a strong politician. I think he'll do a good job in Northern Ireland and I welcome his appointment.

He said Mr Mandelson had had the advantage of having "the inside ear" of the prime minister who, he acknowledged, had been taking the lead in all the talks in the past few months.

"That closeness will not exist between John Reid and the prime minister to the same extent."

Sinn Fein assembly member Mitchel McLaughlin said the party would give the new secretary of state a "fair wind" but expressed doubts over his record as armed services minister.

He referred to Dr Reid's support for the two Scots Guards soldiers convicted of the murder of north Belfast teenager Peter McBride.

A ministry of defence decision to allow Mark Wright and James Fisher to stay in the army sparked an angry reaction from the McBride family and among nationalist politicians last November.

Sinn Fein's Mitchell McLaughlin
Mitchell McLaughlin: Dr Reid will get a "fair wind" from us
"He took a view, possibly as a constituency MP, rather than as a junior minister that it was a valid case that he could support and that it would be appropriate that campaign would be steered from regimental headquarters.

"He also unfortunately, in correspondence with Peter McBride's family, refused to meet them, but we hope he would rectify that as soon as possible."

The new Northern Ireland Secretary met RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan in Downing Street on Wednesday night and is due to be briefed by the senior Army officer in Northern Ireland on Thursday.

"No-one takes this job lightly, but I'm particularly aware of just how significant a moment this is in Northern Ireland transition from conflict to normality," said Dr Reid.

Dr Reid added that he would do everythinghe could to make the agreement work.

Mr Mandelson's resignation on Wednesday was the second time he had been forced to quit the cabinet.

In 1998 he resigned after failing to disclose that he had secretly received a 373,000 loan from his then fellow minister Geoffrey Robinson to buy a house in London.

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See also:

24 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
John Reid appointed NI secretary
24 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Mixed NI views on Mandelson resignation
24 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Anger over Scots Guards decision
24 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Blair summons Mandelson
22 Jan 01 | South Asia
Hindujas questioned by detectives
24 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson hits back in passport row
24 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson resigns
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