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UK Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson
"Northern Ireland today has a second chance to get it right"
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Saturday, 27 May, 2000, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Mandelson hails 'second chance'
Peter Mandelson signs the order restoring devolution
Peter Mandelson signs the order restoring devolution
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson has hailed the Ulster Unionist Council's decision to back a return to devolved government as a "second chance to get it right".

Speaking at Hillsborough Castle, Mr Mandelson said the party's leader David Trimble and the delegates had shown great political vision in taking what was a "difficult and painful decision".



Peter Mandelson: Direct rule ends midnight Monday
But while he added that the vote was a demonstration that unionism could move forward, Mr Mandelson stressed that he had not given the party any private assurances or undertakings on the future of Royal Ulster Constabulary reforms.

Mr Mandelson has signed the devolution order to restore power-sharing to Northern Ireland.

That process will begin with the end of direct rule by Northern Ireland Office ministers at midnight on Monday.

"Breakthrough"

"This is a very good day for Northern Ireland," he said. "David Trimble's victory provides the breakthrough that all parties have been waiting for."

Mr Mandelson said that the leaders of all parties had shown "great vision and great imagination".

"I know that this has been a very difficult and painful decision for unionists," he said.

"But by the same token, this has been difficult and painful for republicans to produce the statement that they did."

Mr Mandelson said that the party leaders had shown flexibility in how they had been prepared to "stretch" their constituencies during the peace process.

And he added that while this was another fresh start, the obstacles ahead would now be easier to navigate.

He said: "This is a second chance to get it right and implement the whole of the Good Friday Agreement that the people have voted for.

"This is an opportunity to put the conflict, the violence and the threat of violence behind us."

'No assurances'

Before the vote, Mr Trimble's deputy John Taylor had said that he would be backing the party leader because he believed that "substantial progress" had been made on key issues including the Patten Commission proposals to reform the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

But Mr Mandelson said: "I have not given, do not give and would not give undertakings in private that I would not make in public," he said.

"My position on the Patten Report was set out in January and I stand by that statement and will not vary it."

Fresh future for UUP

Turning to the future of Mr Trimble's party, Mr Mandelson dismissed predictions made by members of the no camp that the party was more split than ever before - and would pay for it at the ballot box.

"The party now has a renewed sense of confidence," he said.

"Instead of looking back into the past, it has got to look forward and go onto the front foot."

He said that he agreed with Mr Trimble's assessment that the party had been "punching below its weight" for too long because of its temptations to turn on itself.

"It is time for the party to put its fears behind it once and for all and unite behind the leadership David Trimble has shown and make politics work."

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See also:

27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Mixed reaction to devolution vote
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Returning to power
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Unionists back power-sharing
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