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Sunday, 11 February, 2001, 12:32 GMT
Mandelson was 'out of his depth'

Mr Mandelson in happier times in the province
Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson was "completely out of his depth" during his time in the job, Sinn Fein has said.

Education minister Martin McGuinness said Mr Mandelson made "a mess" of legislation to reform the Royal Ulster Constabulary, allowing "militarists and securicrats" to draft the proposals.

Only limited progress had been made in talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair to repair the damage, he told GMTV's The Sunday Programme.

Mr Blair had taken his eye off the ball when he allowed Mr Mandelson free rein in Northern Ireland policing reform, he said, but had now become involved again in recent talks.

The Patten report into RUC reform proved contentious
Proposals to replace the Royal Ulster Constabulary with the Police Service of Northern Ireland have run into controversy ever since they were announced.

The nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Fein have refused to take part in the new policing structures because they do not think reforms go far enough.

Unionists believe the reforms go too far, amid arguments over the new emblems and symbols of the service, and the power of the new police board.

There is little love lost between Mr Mandelson and Sinn Fein.

At the time of Mr Mandelson's resignation from the cabinet in January, over the Hinduja passport affair, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said 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".

Lord Sawyer: Mandelson would be useful
Lord Sawyer: Mandelson would be useful
Sinn Fein grew increasingly critical of Mr Mandelson in his final weeks, saying he had refused to implement moves on demilitarisation in border areas, promised by Mr Blair in talks at Hillsborough last May.

Meanwhile, a senior Labour Party figure has called for Mr Mandelson's return, calling his political talent "too big to squander".

Lord Sawyer, the party's general secretary from 1994-98, said his ability to present a case was almost without equal and a "big asset".

"Give him any portfolio, give him any case to make, and Peter, if he gets behind it, will make it in a manner which is hard to equal in the Parliamentary Labour Party now.

"From my point of view, in Labour Party politics, this is a big asset and it's too big to squander," he told BBC One's On the Record programme.

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See also:

10 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Concerns over falling RUC numbers
24 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Mixed NI views on Mandelson resignation
09 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson: Life goes on
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