Reid committed to peace process

Northern Ireland Secretary Dr John Reid today pledged to "carry forward" the Good Friday Agreement to try and achieve prosperity that the people of the province want.

Speaking shortly after his arrival at his new offices in Castle Buildings at Stormont, Dr Reid said he would be initially trying to learn his way into the new job.

"I arrived here as Secretary of State with no illusions as to the importance of the job - both to everyone here in Northern Ireland and to those of us in the rest of the UK.

"It is even more important at this time because of the critical stage which we have reached in the transition from conflict to a peaceful future which is the overwhelming desire of the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

"Along with the Prime Minister and the local party and the Irish Government, I pledge I will do absolutely everything possible to insure the Good Friday agreement is carried forward to the stage that the people of Northern Ireland want to see."

The new Northern Ireland Secretary said he had "a great deal to learn".

He added that there should be no doubt about his commitment to making the Good Friday Agreement and the transition from conflict to a peaceful society in Northern Ireland work.

Appointed after Peter Mandelson's resignation, Dr Reid said he wished the circumstances which had brought him to Northern Ireland were different.

"I am surprised to be here. I wish the circumstances that brought me here were different but I will pursue the same objectives as Peter Mandelson and before him Mo Mowlam.

"I hope I can help to accomplish what they helped to accomplish."

He paid tribute to the people of Northern Ireland and to those individuals who had shown "dignity and courage".

Dr Reid also claimed newspaper articles in Northern Ireland recognising Peter Mandelson's contribution to peace were "a testimony" to his work.

He dismissed the significance of him becoming the first Catholic to hold the post of Northern Ireland Secretary, claiming everyone has their own private lives but he would be concentrating on trying to deliver a "peaceful and prosperous future" for the people of Northern Ireland.

"I don't claim to be a genius but I pledge my total commitment to taking forward the process towards a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland. That process involves listening and learning."

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