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Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson
Resignation speech
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The BBC's Denis Murray
"This resignation will bring about more delay in the peace process"
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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 16:57 GMT
Mixed NI views on Mandelson resignation

Mandelson: Resigning at crucial time in NI peace process
Northern Ireland's political parties, who had mixed views on Peter Mandelson's handling of the peace process, have said work will go on to resolve the outstanding issues despite his resignation.

The Northern Ireland secretary announced his resignation from the UK cabinet for a second time on Wednesday afternoon following allegations over his involvement in the passport application of controversial Indian billionaire Srichand Hunduja.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams urged the British Government not to be distracted from the problems in the Northern Ireland peace process by Mr Mandelson's resignation.

Mr Adams said Northern Ireland had reached "a defining period in the search for a sustainable process towards a democratic peace settlement on this island".

Gerry Adams: Sinn Fein was critical of Mandelson
"It requires a strategic approach by London, and particularly a very focused commitment by the British prime minister himself," he said.

Mr Adams added that it was "a matter of public record that Peter Mandelson and Sinn Fein were in disagreement over many issues.

"Notwithstanding, I wish him well for the future," he added.

Sinn Fein has been increasingly critical of Mr Mandelson in recent weeks, claiming he had refused to implement moves on demilitarisation in border areas, promised by Prime Minister Tony Blair in talks at Hillsborough last May.

'No tears'

Assembly member Conor Murphy was more critical than his party leader.

He said: "There have been many occasions, such as the suspension of the institutions, his dealing with the Patten report and the flags issue, when he has been an impediment to progress."

The anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party was also critical of Mr Mandelson's role in the province.

Peter Robinson: "Mandelson placated republicans"
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said: "Few people will be shedding any tears for Peter Mandelson on his leaving Northern Ireland.

"But we are mindful of the fact that whoever replaces him will be following the same policy and will be trying to placate republicans and nationalists at this time."

Trimble tribute

However, speaking as Mr Mandelson faced the Commons for his last Northern Ireland questions on Wednesday afternoon, Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble paid tribute to Mr Mandelson's contribution to the peace process.

He said that although they had had differences on the issue of reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, he wanted to thank him "for all the work you have done in Northern Ireland over the last year or so".

David Trimble: Unionists had felt Mandelson's involvement mainly positive
"Many people appreciate the efforts you have made," he added.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Blair said he wanted to "pay the warmest possible tribute to him for the tireless efforts he has made in securing peace in Northern Ireland".

While praising Mr Mandelson's "evenhandedness" Alliance Party leader Sean Neeson said the "unfortunate" timing of Mr Mandelson's resignation was a blow to ongoing efforts to find a resolution to the issues of paramilitary decommissioning, police reform and demilitarisation.

He said: "It is very unfortunate that the secretary of state has had to step aside at this very sensitive and critical stage of the political process".

"The current circumstances are difficult, and for a major change to occur will not make things easier."

Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern said he regretted the departure of Mr Mandelson, with whom he had had "a good working relationship".

"I applaud the role he has played in the on-going implementation of the Good Friday agreement," he added.

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See also:

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
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