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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Double role for new NI secretary
Peter Hain
Peter Hain has replaced Paul Murphy before, as Welsh Secretary
The new Northern Ireland Secretary will continue to work in his old portfolio as Welsh Secretary, it has emerged.

Outgoing Leader of the Commons Peter Hain will replace Paul Murphy as part of a cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

This is not the first time Mr Hain has taken over from Mr Murphy, having replaced him in the Welsh job in 2002.

Mr Murphy leaves government to become chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Mr Hain's appointment followed a day of big changes in NI's political landscape with the DUP and Sinn Fein making big electoral gains.

Paul Murphy was a safe pair of hands for the British Labour government here but he didn't break any Delft over the matters affecting us
Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein president

BBC correspondent Mark Simpson said it would not be a huge surprise that Tony Blair had decided to change his Northern Ireland Secretary.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds said Mr Hain's dual portfolio meant the job of Northern Ireland Secretary was being downgraded.

"I suppose it's true to say the secretary of state's role is not what it was," he said.

"Tony Blair and Jonathan Powell have taken over more and more of the heavy lifting in the process and have left Northern Ireland Office ministers to just get on with the day to day operation of local government departments.

"Maybe under a new prime minister, when Tony Blair eventually goes, the role will alter again but it remains to be seen how that will work out."

He paid tribute to Mr Murphy as having "a genuinely warm personality", a sentiment echoed by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

"On a personal level, Paul Murphy is a nice man and he's fairly straightforward in private conversation," he said.

Mr Adams said Mr Murphy was "a safe pair of hands for the British Labour government here but he didn't break any Delft over the matters affecting us."

Direct action

Mr Hain has long been a believer in direct political action - and is now one of a clutch of cabinet ministers who in younger days had the security services monitoring their activities.

He first came to national prominence as a radical Young Liberal in the forefront of the campaign against apartheid in South Africa, where he lived until he was 16 and his activist family fled to Britain.

Once here, he led the 1969/70 Stop the Seventy campaign to disrupt the South African cricket tour of the UK, and helped found the Anti-Nazi League in 1977 - the same year he moved over to Labour.

He spent 15 years working as a political researcher for a trade union, entering the Commons at the 1991 Neath by-election.

In opposition, he was a whip and then shadow employment minister. But his Welsh seat meant that when Labour won office in 1997, his first government job was at the Welsh Office.

From there, however, he moved on to the Foreign Office and then the Department for Trade & Industry.

After the 2001 election he was appointed Europe minister, in which role he sounded a pro-euro note that was a change from the more euro-wary tone of his earlier pronouncements on the issue.



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