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Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
NI secretary arrives in Belfast
Peter Hain
Peter Hain has replaced Paul Murphy before, as Welsh Secretary
The new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, has arrived in Belfast.

After a walkabout in the city centre the former Leader of the Commons met DUP and Sinn Fein delegations on Monday afternoon at Stormont Castle.

Mr Hain succeeds Paul Murphy who becomes the chairman of the parliament intelligence and security committee following the election re-shuffle.

In an unusual move Mr Hain also retains his job as Welsh secretary of state.

In a statement released on his arrival he said: "As the prime minister has made clear, Northern Ireland remains a priority and the Good Friday Agreement continues to provide the way forward.

"There remain the two outstanding issues of ending paramilitary activity and criminality, and securing unionist participation in shared government," he continued.

"With effort and goodwill on all sides, I have no doubt that these issues can be resolved."

However, the DUP has said the dual portfolio means the job of Northern Ireland secretary is being downgraded.

Nigel Dodds
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds met the new NI secretary

Leader Ian Paisley, deputy leader Peter Robinson and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds were on the first party delegation to meet Mr Hain.

At the meeting the current political situation was discussed along with a number of other issues.

Mr Dodds said they urged Mr Hain to move the process on without Sinn Fein.

"We have to get on with making sure that the people's views are represented and the people have an input into the governing of Northern Ireland," he said.

"It's quite clear that everything since the spectacular failure of the provisional movement to move into the democratic process since Christmas and their ongoing failure to move into that process means that we cannot afford, as democrats, to be hanging around waiting for them.

"We must move on."

A Sinn Fein delegation also met Mr Hain.

Speaking afterwards party President Gerry Adams said the government should press on with reforms.

"Key elements of the Good Friday Agreement do not require co-operation from the DUP," he said.

"Progress on equality, human rights, collusion, the Irish language, demilitarisation, justice and policing are entirely within the gift of the British government.

"There is an increased onus on the British government to face up to the many issues within its control."

Mr Hain's appointment followed big changes in Northern Ireland's political landscape, with the DUP and Sinn Fein making large electoral gains.


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SEE ALSO:
Blair says NI is still a priority
04 May 05 |  Northern Ireland



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