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Unfamiliar face Brokenshire now has his work cut out

By David Young

Published 16/07/2016

Claire Burns
Claire Burns
Mark Grills
Karan Anand

James who?

Incoming Secretary of State James Brokenshire has a mountain to climb in terms of his recognition with the Ulster public, if the results of our snap survey in Belfast's city centre last night are anything to go by.

Only one person recognised the former Immigration Minister as the new Secretary of State - and even he wasn't entirely sure about the new man's name.

Seated outside the Disney Store in Belfast's Donegall Place, software engineer Karan Anand (32) shook his head and smiled as he looked at Mr Brokenshire's picture.

He had no idea who the man in the photo was.

But the Indian citizen, who's migrated to work in Belfast, felt that the new Secretary of State should have job creation as his number one priority - and should be looking for ways to help migrants make the most positive contribution they could to Northern Ireland society.

Shown Mr Brokenshire's photograph, south Belfast civil servant Claire (25) knew immediately it was a picture of an MP, but just couldn't quite put her finger on who the dapper gent was.

But Claire had strong views on what the new man at Stormont should be doing.

"He should be thinking about the welfare of the common people as his number one priority," she said.

"He should be thinking about and doing what's good for Northern Ireland, not just what politicians want."

Ulster University textile design student Jade Anderson from Newtownabbey had no idea who the photo was of - the name James Brokenshire also drew a blank with her, as it did with her pal, fine art student Mark Grills, a Newtownabbey man currently studying sculpture at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

"We've no idea about politics," Jade and Mark chorused.

"I don't know enough about it to have an opinion," added Mark.

"It all just goes over my head."

But given a moment to think, Mark rallied, and gamely called on the new Secretary of State to stop closing down arts programmes at universities.

Sipping a soft drink outside a cafe as he waited for his bus, jobseeker Stephen Mackel (30), recognised the photo of Mr Brokenshire as being of an MP, but didn't know who the MP was.

But, when told that the picture showed the new Secretary of State, the Belfast man revealed very firm views on what should be at the top of the Secretary of State's agenda once he gets his feet under his Stormont desk.

"The economy, for a start," Mr Mackel said.

"And he should be thinking about reversing the child benefit changes Cameron brought in.

"The new Secretary of State also needs to give thought to increasing in-work benefits, to help people afford to take jobs."

The only interviewee to recognise the Old Bexley and Sidcup MP was colporteur Stephen Saunders (42) who was distributing Jehovah's Witness literature in Royal Avenue near Castle Court shopping centre.

Mr Saunders reckoned the new Secretary of State would have a lot on his plate - but declined to pick a priority.

"Our problems are unsolvable without a higher power," said the Belfast man.

And we can all say amen to that.

Belfast Telegraph

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