As talks due to resume Brokenshire steps down
Karen Bradley is the new Northern Ireland Secretary, taking over from James Brokenshire following his decision to step down from the position on Monday.
Bradley, 47, moves from Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, a position she held since July 2016.
She also serves as the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands. Mr Brokenshire, 50, informed Prime Minister Theresa May of his decision by letter on 8 January, advising that he is to undergo surgery to remove a lesion on his right lung, which would require several weeks of recuperation.
In his letter he stated that while he fully expected the operation to “address the issue” and to be able to return to work “relatively quickly”, his priority was his long term health and his family.
He added: “I recognise that as a result of my forthcoming surgery I will not be able to give the effort, energy and complete focus needed at this important time if we are to secure the positive outcomes both you and I are committed to achieving.”
Mr Brokenshire said it had been a “huge honour and privilege” to serve as secretary of state for Northern Ireland. He continued: “My earnest wish for everyone in Northern Ireland is to see devolved government restored as quickly as possible.”
He later tweeted: Really appreciate all of the kind messages. Standing down will allow me to focus completely on my family, my health and recovering from surgery speedily so that I can get back to frontline politics as early as I can. Not quite how I thought I’d mark my 50th birthday!”
Mrs May, who carried out a cabinet reshuffle on Monday, joined those in paying tribute to Mr Brokenshire and wished him 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.”
Mr Brokenshire’s resignation came prior to the Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle.
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney acknowledged Mr Brokenshire’s “unfailing dedication” and his “determination” to secure political progress in Northern Ireland.
He said: “His unwavering commitment – in public and in private – over the last year to securing the effective operation of the devolved powersharing institutions in Belfast has been hugely important.”
Mr Brokenshire took on the role of Northern Ireland Secretary in July 2016, replacing Theresa Villiers following the vote on Brexit. During his time in the office, the MP for Hornchurch in Essex, was faced with the collapse of the Northern Irish Assembly over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal.
Northern Ireland remains without a functioning executive, almost 12 months to the day that that Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin led coalition fell apart follow the resignation on 9 January 2017 of the late Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister. DUP leader Arlene Foster said:
“This is clearly a difficult time for not only James but for Cathy, his wife and his children. I send my best wishes to him and the entire Brokenshire family. I trust James will have the surgery he needs and will make a full recovery.
“Since becoming secretary of state in 2016, Mr Brokenshire had immersed himself fully in the role by dedicating long hours to trying to make progress.
“James leaves the role with a very intimate knowledge of Northern Ireland and I look forward to working with him again in the future.”
Owen Smith, Shadow of State for Northern Ireland, said he was very sorry to hear Mr Brokenshire had left the cabinet and joined those in wishing him a speedy recovery.