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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 20:35 GMT 21:35 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein expects Mandelson meeting

Mandelson and Mowlam: Mutual praise as reins handed over

Sinn Fein have said they expect to meet the new Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson in Belfast on Tuesday.

The party said chief negotiator Martin McGuinness will lead a delegation to the meeting which was arranged prior to the British Government reshuffle.

BBC NI's Political Correspondent Mark Simpson profiles the new secretary of state
The delegation also expects to meet outgoing Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam.

On Monday evening Mr Mandelson pledged to work "night and day" to achieve a lasting peace settlement in Northern Ireland.

In a joint press conference with his predecessor Mo Mowlam at Northern Ireland Office headquarters in London he said he would try to "complete the journey Mo has been taking".

He said: "It is a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous challenge for me. It's a job which I am absolutely delighted to have."

The new Northern Ireland secretary said he believed his appointment was evidence of Prime Minister Tony Blair's determination to achieve a settlement.

Mo Mowlam and Peter Mandelson welcome their new posts
Mr Mandelson said he wanted everyone to focus on the Mitchell review of the peace process and what he hoped "would be the outcome of what he is undertaking".

"I only hope that my own appointment by the Prime Minister will demonstrate the Government's absolute unwavering commitment to finding peace and reaching a deal in Northern Ireland," he said.

"There is nothing more important than finding a deal that is acceptable to everyone, and to give everyone the chance that they want in Northern Ireland.

"That is what I'm dedicated to do and I shall work night and day to do everything I can to achieve that."

Mowlam sorry to leave Mr Mandelson paid tribute to Dr Mowlam's work as Northern Ireland secretary.

"I have no doubt its going to be very hard. I have seen how Mo has done this job for so long, terrifically. And I know from my own friends in Northern Ireland how highly she is thought of. She has just been terrific. Everyone knows that. She is quite a humbling person to follow," he said.

Mo Mowlam said she was sorry to be handing over the Northern Ireland brief which she had covered for five years in government and in opposition.

"I am sad, obviously to be leaving the job. I have got a lot of good friends now and it is a beautiful place to work," she said.

"There is never an easy time to go. Now is clearly not an easy time but everybody has got to go at some time."

She said, however, that she was "very pleased" with her new job as Cabinet `enforcer', taking over from Dr Cunningham.

And added that she was even more pleased that she was passing on the Northern Ireland job to somebody with "the ability, the skills, and the commitment" of Mr Mandelson, because she said "you get to care very much about what happens".

"He will do an excellent job. He is a very safe pair of hands," she added.

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