Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Departure of Dr. John Reid and arrival of Mr Paul Murphy
I wish to congratulate Dr. John Reid on his appointment by Prime Minister Blair to the post of Labour Party Chairman and, at the same time, to express my personal regret that John will be relinquishing his portfolio as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
During his nearly two years in office as Secretary of State, John has applied his considerable political talents, his formidable intellect and his enviable communication skills to significantly advancing the peace process in Northern Ireland. As he prepares to leave Northern Ireland, he can derive considerable satisfaction from the impressive progress that was made on his watch, including two acts of arms decommissioning and the encouraging establishment of the new policing dispensation.
I greatly enjoyed working with John and have always appreciated his keen engagement on the issues that we jointly addressed. When we met last Tuesday, he exhibited his usual appetite for pro-actively addressing the range of issues on our inter-governmental agenda and was clearly determined, in consultation with the Irish Government and the parties, to find an enduring basis for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland.
John will be genuinely missed in Northern Ireland and, indeed, on the island as a whole. I wish John, and his wife Carine, every political success and personal happiness as he assumes his very important and challenging new responsibilities at the heart of government in London.
Our regret at John's departure is mitigated by the fact that his successor, Paul Murphy, is no stranger to Northern Ireland. I congratulate Paul on his appointment as Secretary of State and look forward to working very closely with him in the period ahead.
As a previous Minister at the Northern Ireland Office, Paul had been a very respected and able member of the team that delivered the Good Friday Agreement. While he arrives in Northern Ireland at a very challenging time, his innate skills, previous experience and perceptive understanding of the nature of the political problem will be very valuable resources in quickly resolving the current difficulties and fully realising the promise of the Good Friday Agreement.
I hope to have an opportunity later in the day to personally convey my best wishes to both John and Paul.