Mowlam tells of interest in Ulster education post

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Indy Politics

Mo Mowlam's departure from the Cabinet was the subject of renewed speculation yesterday, when she made clear she wanted to return to work in Northern Ireland.

Mo Mowlam's departure from the Cabinet was the subject of renewed speculation yesterday, when she made clear she wanted to return to work in Northern Ireland.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office said she was keen to work with projects promoting integrated cross-community education in the province.

Allies claimed that her remarks gave the strongest signal yet that she was determined to resign from the Government after the next general election. However, as Downing Street moved to dismiss such suggestions, Ms Mowlam herself was reportedly furious at the way her comments had been interpreted.

Ms Mowlam had said in an interview with The Mirror: "I have not done much recently but when I have more time later, when I am not part of it (the Government), I would like very much to work on integrated education.

"I cannot do much at the moment because that would be unfair to Peter Mandelson [the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland]. But if I go across to Northern Ireland on other business I would like to meet the integrated education people."

Nearly all schools in Northern Ireland are still divided between the Catholic and Protestant communities.

Ms Mowlam said that integrated education would help deal with underlying attitudes and prejudice. "It will take generations to achieve, but it is a very important aspect of building a lasting peace in Northern Ireland and something I believe in passionately," she said.

Ms Mowlam made plain last year that she was unhappy at her move from Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and has talked in the past about wanting to write a book when she leaves office.

Downing Street has spent the past few months trying to scotch persistent speculation that Tony Blair wants her removed from the Cabinet after the election.

Mr Blair's spokesman was scathing about the new claims yesterday. "It's well known that Mo is passionate about integrated education as she is passionate about a lot of things. She's got a big and important job to do.

"She's a valued member of the Government and there aren't any plans for that to change," he said.

A Cabinet Office spokesman added: "Dr Mowlam has made no secret of her strong support for integrated education. However, it would be wrong to confuse this with any intention of leaving the Cabinet. What happens beyond the election is pure speculation."

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