Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire resigns from cabinet over ill

Sir Patrick McLoughlin

Into the mix, a new Northern Ireland secretary was announced yesterday as part of Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle after former secretary James Brokenshire stepped down citing health reasons.

Karen Bradley, who represents the English constituency of Staffordshire, was formerly the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

A crucial post that needed filling was the role of First Secretary of State following the recent departure of Damian Green, a close ally of May who was forced to resign just before Christmas following a breach parliamentary code.

If Northern Ireland's politicians think her lack of experience means Ms Bradley will be a soft touch, however, they might consider how she has confounded low expectations in the past. James Brokenshire stepped down from the front bench due to ill health, with warm wishes from many in Northern Ireland for his commitment and hard work, and widespread hopes for a speedy recovery.

Responding to Mr Brokenshire by letter, the Prime Mini s ter wrote: "While it is typical of you that your first thought was not for yourself, but for your duties as a cabinet minister and public servant, it is absolutely right that you should put your health first, for your sake and that of your family".

"The new Secretary of State must also be a strong advocate for the region's economic interests - ensuring Northern Ireland's unique vulnerability to a "no deal" Brexit is fully understood across the corridors of Whitehall".

Mr Brokenshire's resignation came prior to the Prime Minister's cabinet reshuffle.

In a statement shortly after her appointment, Mrs Bradley described it as a "great honour" and said the restoration of devolution was her "top priority".

Mr Coveney is now on a visit to the Middle East and will stop over in London on his way back to Ireland.

It is apt that the word likely to be most associated with James Brokesnhire's year and a half as Northern Ireland secretary is "deadlines".

In November, Brokenshire was forced to begin setting a budget for the province, but he said a return to direct rule could still be avoided.

"I know there are challenges but I am determined we will find a way through those challenges".

"James leaves the role with a very intimate knowledge of Northern Ireland and I look forward to working with him again in the future".

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