British Northern Ireland Minister Leaves as PM May Braces for Gov't Shake-Up

Lydia Fleming
January 13, 2018

When she was named culture secretary after Ms May became prime minister in 2016, the cultural and sports worlds initially rejoiced.

The 47-year-old was appointed on Monday after previous Secretary of State James Brokenshire announced his resignation from the cabinet for health reasons.

But he said he recognised that he would not "be able to give the effort, energy and complete focus needed at this important time" and therefore believed that "the right thing at this time is for me to stand down from my current responsibilities".

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.

Fisherman in Northern Ireland mends his nets
GettyA fisherman in Northern Ireland tends to his nets

In an apparent signal that he may be in line for a return to government once he has recovered after surgery, the prime minister said Mr Brokenshire would have continued to do "a good job" had it not been for his illness.

Mrs Bradley is the Conservative MP for the English constituency of Staffordshire Moorlands but has little experience of Northern Ireland politics.

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". The former Deputy First Minister's resignation over Arlene Foster's refusal to step aside as First Minister over the cash for ash scandal brought down the Stormont Assembly.

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney acknowledged Mr Brokenshire's "unfailing dedication" and his "determination" to secure political progress in Northern Ireland.

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Mr Brokenshire, who replaced Theresa Villiers in July 2016, lives in Bexley with his wife and their three children, and served as security minister for the Home Office from 2011 to 2015.

Warm tributes have been paid to Mr Brokenshire, with both political allies and opponents sending him best wishes as he deals with his health issues.

Mr Brokenshire visited Enniskillen twice last November.

"We must also continue the work to deliver a Brexit that recognises Northern Ireland's unique circumstances and avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland while maintaining the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom", she said.

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"I think an terrible lot has happened in the year - two elections - we've had a very clear mandate in relation to the way forward".

"A key part of my role will be to help build a Northern Ireland that is fit for the future and works for everyone", she said.

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