Ahern pays tribute to Reid after British reshuffle


The Government is looking forward to working with the new Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Paul Murphy "as the two Governments seek together to manage the current difficulties and challenges", the Taoiseach said today.

We don't want to see any British Secretary of State here at all
Sinn Fein President Mr Gerry Adams

"I would like to express my personal appreciation and the appreciation of the Government for his valuable contribution to the process. I warmly congratulate him and wish him the very best in his appointment."

Dr Reid replaces Mr Charles Clarke who has been appointed British education secretary after the surprise resignation of Ms Estelle Morris.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mr David Trimble welcomed Dr Reid's successor, Mr Murphy, back to the North and hoped that he would make a "positive contribution" to the process.

"Whilst the move has been sparked by the Estelle Morris resignation, the change in Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is not surprising given the revelations about recent events in the Northern Ireland Office and at Stormont".

"Paul Murphy comes back to Northern Ireland with a reputation for being a good listener and we hope he can settle down to his work efficiently," Mr Trimble said.

Sinn Féin president Mr Gerry Adams claimed Dr Reid's record was one of "dismal failure".

He said: "He failed to grasp the imperative of the current situation and he suspended the institutions three times." Mr Adams was equally dismissive of Mr Murphy's chances of making a difference.

"We don't want to see any British Secretary of State here at all," he said. "None of them who come in from London can do a better job than the people who live here".

However, Mr Adams did issue one piece of advice to the new man: "Lift the suspension on the institutions. He should have all-party talks as quickly as possible".

Democratic Unionist MLA Mr Ian Paisley Junior said: "I think this is very much a sign that direct rule from Westminster is being firmly bedded in.

"I also suspect it's a sign that there may not be Assembly elections next year," he said. "I would also think it's another indication that we have reached the end of the Belfast Agreement".

SDLP leader Mark Durkan claimed the appointment of Dr Reid as Labour Party chairman was wise given his strong communication skills.

"I do not want to begrudge the contribution he did make but I also am not in denial about some of the differences we had with him including the way the return of direct rule has been handled.

Mr Durkan denied DUP claims that the appointment of Mr Murphy marked the end of the Agreement. "Paul Murphy has previous experience here. He knows all of the parties really well," the SDLP leader said.

"As minister of state he was immersed in the multi-party talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement and chaired the Strand One element of those talks.

"So he is familiar with the whole construct of the Agreement and with the spectrum of political parties in Northern Ireland," Mr Durkan said.