TRIBUTES have been paid to the Wigan diplomat who pulled off the ground-breaking nuclear fission deal with Iran.
Baroness Ashton of Up Holland has been hailed around the world for her success in bringing the Islamic republic to the negotiating table and then using her quiet but steely charm to win a hard-fought agreement that few had thought remotely possible beforehand.
Under the deal, Iran will stop enriching uranium, “neutralise” its existing stockpile of enriched uranium, along with agreeing greater transparency including granting better access to inspectors, allowing daily access to two of Iran’s key nuclear sites, in response to a loosening of trade sanctions.
There will be no further development of the country’s nuclear plant which it is believed could produce plutonium from which nuclear bombs could eventually be constructed.
Former trade minister in the Blair Labour government Sir Ian McCartney - a friend and admirer of Baroness Ashton for more than two decades - hailed her quiet but firm skills as a potential peace maker.
He said: “When she was appointed to this post there was huge criticism, particularly from the membership of the current Government and I defended her strongly in the press.
“I said at the time she would prove to be outstanding and that has proved to be the case. As is usual in politics, a number of people are now trying to claim credit for the current international position, but the truth of the matter is that she is the first person to have got this far, she should be congratulated for it and I am very proud for having been on record supporting her choice all along as a leading British and European public figure.
“Her qualities include being very quiet but very firm and when she has to really knuckle down and tell people what needs to be done and how to get it done, she will do.
“Cathy is also quite a calm person and when all is tumultuous whirling around her, she keeps her eye on the job to be done and as we can see, delivers.
“Because she was being continually under-estimated, she has used that to her advantage, very effectively, to get things done.”
Council leader and fellow Labour Peer Lord Smith said: “Cathy Ashton is a local lass and when I was appointed to the House of Lords we got on well together. Her talent led her to being promoted to be Leader of the House of Lords, a position she held until she was appointed to the EU.”