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Wednesday, July 28, 1999 Published at 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK

Special Report

Murphy confirmed as Welsh Secretary

New Welsh secretary Paul Murphy with Mo Mowlam

Northern Ireland Minister and Newport MP Paul Murphy has been offered the job as Welsh Secretary in Tony Blair's reshuffle.

Mr Murphy is travelling to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister to discuss his appointment.

The announcement is the only change in a Mr Blair's cabinet reshuffle. But more changes are expected in the junior and middle ranks.

BBC Political Correspondent David Cornock
There had been suggestions that Mr Murphy's current boss, Mo Mowlam, would be given a Whitehall ministry, leaving the way open for him to take over as Northern Ireland Secretary.

But it looks like Mr Blair's announcement has put him firmly back at home in Wales as Welsh Secretary.

Mr Murphy is known for his laid back approach which disguises a shrewd brain.

He is a conciliator with an eye for detail and has known few political enemies - he has won support from both sides for his work in Northern Ireland.

The main bulk of his work in Belfast has been to establish how a Northern Ireland Assembly can be made to work.

Quiet diplomat

During the peace negotiations, he has won praise for his quiet diplomacy - not least from Mo Mowlam.

BBC Wales has learned that the Torfaen MP Paul Murphy will be the new Secretary of State for Wales.

He succeeds Alun Michael, who is to concentrate on his role as First Secretary of the National Assembly.

Mr Murphy famously used the Welsh language to defuse an awkward situation where a Sinn Fein member used Gaelic during the peace talks.

[ image: Paul Murphy - has few enemies]
Paul Murphy - has few enemies
Fellow Labour MP Don Touhig was his best man as well as a former schoolmate in the Gwent Valleys.

Mr Touhig, who leads Welsh Labour MPs group in Westminster, believes his friend would be a good choice for a Wales in which the Labour Party has taken a battering in recent elections.

"I think Paul Murphy would bring a style of bringing people together," he said.


Mr Murphy was favourite for the position since he is the only Welsh minister of state.

Junior minister Peter Hain was an outsider for the post, but he has been outspoken recently.

Mr Blair was also keen to appoint someone who gets on with Alun Michael - despite being his campaign manager for Welsh Labour Leader, Mr Hain and Mr Michael do not really see eye to eye.

Public service career

Before becoming an MP, Mr Murphy was a further education lecturer in history, party secretary and long-serving local councillor.

He took over the seat of the more colourful Leo Abse in 1987.

He began his parliamentary career as a junior front bench spokesman on Welsh affairs, switched in 1994 to Northern Ireland, then to Foreign Affairs and Defence.

A Roman Catholic, he is known to have strong views on abortion and has often complained about pollution from toxic waste disposal.

His hobbies include classical music, cookery and French food.

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