Mo Mowlam last night vowed to carry on her search for peace in Northern Ireland after the murder of rebel Loyalist Billy Wright.
The Ulster Secretary pleaded for calm, urging people to "Think and think again" before doing anything.
Ms Mowlam said: "Taking to the streets at this point will not stop the chaos and misery that we have lived through in Northern Ireland."
She said the murder was not just an attack on a fellow prisoner. "It is an attack on the peace process itself, a stark reminder - a horrible glimpse of the past."
Ms Mowlam conceded the murder was a "very, very serious lapse of security" but rejected calls for her resignation which, she said, would only add to the disruption fringe elements wanted to create.
She said: "I am not, at the moment, considering resignation.
"Resignation at this stage would be an excessive step. It is not necessary."
She said her resignation would only add to the disruption and threat to the peace process which fringe elements were trying to create.
The Secretary of State said she would act when she knew the full facts of the killing, which she said was appalling and carried out "with the most brutal cynicism".
"I am disgusted by it," she added.
While admitting the potential for damage to the peace process, Ms Mowlam said it need not affect the multi-party talks "if the others have the courage and commonsense and calmness to keep going.
"But I don't in any way underestimate the seriousness of this".
The Maze prison houses some of Ulster's most notorious terrorists.
This is the second major lapse in three weeks.
On December 10, IRA killer Liam Averill escaped dressed as a woman. Sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two Protestants shortly before the IRA announced its 1994 ceasefire, he was smuggled out of prison with a group of women and children attending a Christmas party. …