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Elizabeth Quigley reports
"Mr Roy maintains he acted in the best interests of his constituents"
 real 56k

Sunday, 11 February, 2001, 21:29 GMT
Ahern row MP quits as aide
Frank Roy
Mr Roy has said he acted as constituency MP
The MP at the centre of the row over the cancellation of a visit by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has resigned from his post as parliamentary private secretary to Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell.

Motherwell and Wishaw MP Frank Roy was widely criticised for writing to the Taoiseach warning his visit on the day of an Old Firm clash might cause security problems by raising sectarian tensions.

Mr Ahern had been due to unveil a memorial to those who died in the Irish potato famine at Carfin in Lanarkshire on Sunday after attending the game at Parkhead.

Mr Roy has insisted he had acted as constituency MP and not in his capacity as adviser to the Scottish secretary.

Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell
Mr Roy wrote to Mrs Liddell
Opposition parties have been suggesting that Mr Roy's former boss, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid, had a hand in events.

However, Dr Reid has strongly denied involvement, as has Mrs Liddell.

In his resignation letter to Mrs Liddell, Mr Roy said: "It is with regret that I tender my resignation as your parliamentary private secretary.

"Over the past week, and indeed throughout my time as member of parliament for Motherwell and Wishaw, I have tried to the best of my ability to represent the views of my constituents and the policies of the Labour Party and government.

"I regret that you, as Secretary of State for Scotland, and John Reid as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, have been falsely accused of involvement of my efforts to highlight my concerns in relation to the specific timing of the memorial ceremony in my constituency.

Difficulties 'exploited'

"I am certain that if I had not highlighted my concerns about the timing of the visit, I would not have been fulfilling my duty to the people who elected me.

"The fact that some politicians have been quick to exploit this situation for their own political ends, has not changed my determination to fulfil that duty."

Carfin memorial cross
Mr Ahern is to unveil the memorial at a later date
Mr Roy said he raised concerns about the visit of the Taoiseach in early January, but did not write to the Irish Consul in Edinburgh until 2 February when it became clear that the visit was going ahead.

He said he spoke to the Irish Ambassador in London last Tuesday, leaving the decision on the visit in the hands of the Irish authorities.

His intervention was made despite statements from Strathclyde Police that they did not consider the visit to be a security risk.

In a statement, Mrs Liddell said: "I very much regret that Frank Roy has submitted his resignation as my PPS.

"I tried to talk him out of it but the distress to his family over the past few days has been so considerable that I feel I have no alternative but to respect his wishes.

"He has been an outstanding colleague and I am grateful for his loyalty. He will continue to be a close personal friend."

Opposition response

The Scottish National Party has accused Labour of creating a damaging "fiasco".

SNP leader John Swinney said: "Frank Roy's resignation deepens the Labour Party's crisis.

"The SNP have been arguing since Friday that Frank Roy's position was untenable, and Helen Liddell should have sacked him.

"It is crystal clear that Frank Roy did not act alone, and his resignation reinforces the need for Helen Liddell, John Reid, and Jack McConnell to make public statements, and come clean about their role in this Labour Party fiasco."

Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie said "Despite his carefully worded letter of resignation, it still seems that he is only a fall guy for others.

'Severe embarrassment'

"Helen Liddell's and John Reid's role in this sorry affair still needs to be clarified and Jack McConnell's silence has been deafening.

"The Labour Lanarkshire mafia have dragged Scotland's political reputation into the gutter and caused severe embarrassment to our country."

First Minister Henry McLeish has invited Mr Ahern to come on an official visit at a later date.

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See also:

09 Feb 01 | Scotland
Confusion over Taoiseach warning
08 Feb 01 | Scotland
Fury at MP's Taoiseach warning
08 Feb 01 | Scotland
Dismay at Ahern cancellation
08 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Frank Roy: Strong leadership links
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