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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 22:34 GMT
John Reid appointed NI secretary
Dr Reid replaces Peter Mandelson
Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid has been given the job of Northern Ireland secretary, following Peter Mandelson's resignation.

The announcement came after Dr Reid spent 45 minutes in Downing Street with Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday evening.

Mr Mandelson resigned after meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.

He admitted he had misled the public over his involvement in the passport application of controversial Indian billionaire Srichand Hinduja, a sponsor of the Millennium Dome.

He had been in the job for 15 months.

Crucial time

Dr Reid, a Catholic, is the first Scot to become Northern Ireland secretary.

Peter Mandelson resigned from cabinet for the second time
He takes up the Northern Ireland post at a crucial time in the peace process.

Both the British and Irish governments have been involved in intensive negotiations with the Northern Ireland parties.

They are aimed at resolving the interlocked issues of police reform, paramilitary decommissioning and demilitarisation, which are threatening to destabilise the province's powersharing institutions.

'Opportunity'

In a statement Dr Reid said the next few weeks provided an "enormous opportunity to put the Good Friday Agreement and the future of Northern Ireland on a more stable basis".

He met RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan at Downing Street on Wednesday night, and is to meet him again along with Northern Ireland Office officials and the army GOC on Thursday to get fully up to date with the current situation in the peace process.

He said: "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."

Mr Reid added that he would do "everything I can" to make the agreement work.

'Important role'

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon welcomed Dr Reid's appointment and said he looked forward to developing a good working relation with the new minister.

The deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party added: "We are at a critical point in the political process where real progress needs to be made.

Seamus Mallon: "Much work ahead"
"The new secretary of state will have an important role to play in helping to create the stable environment that the institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement need in order to flourish."

Welcoming the appointment, Stormont arts and culture minister Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey said Dr Reid was "a highly experienced minister with a close knowledge of the devolution process".

He added that he believed Dr Reid would reflect the prime minister's current focus on the peace process.

Mr McGimpsey said: "I do not foresee any change in direction in terms of policy towards Northern Ireland and in terms of focus.

Michael McGimpsey: "Hope Dr Reid will help to avert NI crisis"
"I suspect he will continue to reinforce the instinct of the prime minister to get the problems resolved once and for all and stop the process lurching from crisis to crisis."

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said republicans would expect Dr Reid to ensure that the agreement was fully implemented.

He said: "Sinn Fein understands that irrespective of who the British secretary of state is, what is important is British policy.

"British policy at this time is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. We will be looking to Mr Reid to promote, defend and act as a guarantor of the agreement.

"This is particularly important at this difficult phase of the peace process."

Former armed forces minister

Before becoming Scottish secretary, Dr Reid was transport minister.

But he made his mark during 15 months as armed forces minister.

During that time he was deeply engaged in the Strategic Defence Review.

He promised to act swiftly on Gulf War Syndrome after it was felt that Tory Minister Nicholas Soames had dragged his feet.

He also reviewed cases of soldiers shot in World War I for desertion and ordered that their names be added to war memorials, without offering individual pardons.

The son of a postman, he was educated at Coatbridge and Stirling University.

Dr Reid had worked as a research officer for the Scottish Labour Party and then as adviser to Labour leader Neil Kinnock from 1983 until 1985.

He represents Hamilton North and Bellshill with a majority of 17,067 and was promoted to transport minister in place of Gavin Strang in July 1998.

The energy minister, and former Scottish Office education minister Helen Liddell is to become Scottish Secretary.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Dr John Reid has impressed more and more Downing Street insiders in recent years"
Peter Mandelson is at the centre of a row over passport applications

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See also:

24 Jan 01 | UK Politics
24 Jan 01 | N Ireland
21 Dec 00 | Scotland
14 Nov 00 | Scotland
28 Jan 00 | Scotland
11 Oct 99 | UK Politics
18 Nov 99 | Scotland
24 Jan 01 | Scotland
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