'I wish I had sent the watch to you'

THIS is the full text of Michael Mates's resignation letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

When I came to see you earlier today, it was to reiterate to you what I told your office some days ago, namely that, if the continuing saga over the representations I made to the Attorney General were embarrassing and damaging the Government, I would stand aside.

I believe that this is now the case and, although I have done nothing improper, the daily leaking of letters and so-called quotes from unknown sources - most of them wildly inaccurate - is causing such cumulative damage to the important work of Government, that I must do what I can to bring it to an end. I therefore wish to go.

The past 14 months have been the happiest and most fulfilling of my political life.

Working for Paddy Mayhew, a wise and brave Secretary of State, and being part of a Government facing huge challenges, which we are starting to overcome, has been an unforgettable experience.

Thank you for giving me the chance to serve. I shall now do what I can to put my part of the turmoil to rest. You need and deserve the staunch support of the whole party.

It goes without saying that you have mine: now and for the future.

In retrospect, I rather wish I had sent the watch with its now famous message to you.

Yours ever,

Michael

The Prime Minister wrote in reply:

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your letter today.

As I explained when you asked to see me, I fully accept that you acted with complete propriety in raising with the Attorney General the concerns that had been put to you about Mr Nadir's case.

I made it clear, as I have done in Parliament, that I have no criticisms of your actions on that account.

I do, however, understand the reasons why you have decided you must stand down from the Government, and I respect them.

I am most grateful for all the work you have done in the Northern Ireland Office since the election. You have handled the very difficult security portfolio with great fortitude and skill, as well as dealing with finance and personnel issues.

It is a job that makes immense demands, which you have met fully and effectively. I know that Paddy Mayhew shares that view.

I am sorry that you had to stand aside from the Government in circumstances like this. But I am sure that you took the right decision with your usual sense of duty.

I am most grateful to you for your warm words of continuing support.

Yours ever,

John

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