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1 February 2001 Edition

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Reid's blueprint must be the Agreement

Speaking in Derry at the weekend, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said ``the good thing about the new Secretary of State is that the old one is gone''.

The fact that Peter Mandelson was not at the top of most nationalists' Christmas card list is well documented; the fact that the Sinn Féin leadership viewed Mandelson with distrust is also well known. Mandelson's departure from the North, therefore, will not be mourned by republicans.

So we now find ourselves asking ``what will John Reid be like''?

Already we know that as British armed forces minister Reid supported Scots Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher in their fight to stay in the British Army when they were freed from prison where they served four years for the killing of Belfast teenager Peter McBride.

In some respects, then, Reid will be tainted in the eyes of nationalists.

Of his immediate task to inject some impetus into the peace process, the jury has not yet been presented with any evidence of his intentions and so cannot begin their deliberations.

Already, a Sinn Féin delegation has met with the `new man', at which they raised issues of import for the nationalist community.

Demilitarising the border areas of South Armagh and South Fermanagh, loyalist attacks on nationalists, the issue of collusion between the crown forces and loyalist death squads and policing were all raised.

After the meeting party president Gerry Adams described the meeting as, ``good'' but called on Reid to honour the British government's ``commitments that were made last year''.

Reid must do better than Mandelson, but he and the British government will ultimately be judged on their commitment to implementing the Agreement they signed.

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