Belfast Telegraph

I am determined to see Stormont restored, says new Secretary of State

By Rebecca Black and David Young

The new Secretary of State visited Belfast yesterday - but answered only three questions from pre-selected media outlets.

Karen Bradley, on her first trip to Northern Ireland, arrived at Belfast Metropolitan College's new campus in Titanic Quarter, commenting that she was delighted to be there.

Despite a large number of journalists turning out for the first chance to engage with her, she took only three questions - from the BBC, UTV and RTE.

Mrs Bradley restated her predecessor James Brokenshire's determination to overcome the challenges at the heart of the power-sharing crisis and restore devolution at Stormont.

The Staffordshire Moorlands MP, who was appointed by Prime Minister Theresa May this week after Mr Brokenshire's surprise resignation on health grounds, said she wanted to work collaboratively with the parties to forge an agreement that will see the Assembly resurrected.

She talked to staff and students at the college and received a tour, before speaking to the media on the Titanic Quarter's fog-shrouded waterfront.

She described it as "fitting" that her first visit to Northern Ireland was to the Titanic Quarter, as it represented the past and future, and said her family was looking forward to getting to know this "amazing country".

"I want to find a way through this because the absolute priority is to restore devolved government as soon as possible," she said.

Asked if she intended to adopt a new approach to the stalled negotiation process, Mrs Bradley stressed she was still in learning mode.

"I am here to learn, I am here to find out, I am here to meet all the leaders, I'm here to look at what needs to be done," she said.

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

"We need to deliver devolved government to Northern Ireland as soon as possible and that's what I am determined to do."

Mrs Bradley said she was also conscious of the need to deliver a Brexit that worked for everyone here.

She said she understood the importance of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles and ensuring a safe future.

"My aim is to work collaboratively to find solutions to those issues that are acceptable to everyone," she said.

She added that the Irish Government would have an "important role" to play in efforts to restore devolution.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office told the Belfast Telegraph that there had been limited time for the media.

He said the Secretary of State will be taking part in more extensive media interviews in the future.

Later, Mrs Bradley met DUP leader Arlene Foster.

She spoke to Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill on the phone.

She also met UUP leader Robin Swann and his SDLP counterpart Colum Eastwood in person.

Mr Eastwood warned the Secretary of State there was "no honeymoon period" and urged her to convene inclusive talks with an independent chair immediately.

Mrs Bradley also met PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton yesterday, and is due to meet the Republic's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney tomorrow.

Mrs Bradley was elected as the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands in 2010. In February 2014 she replaced Mr Brokenshire as a junior minister at the Home Office. In July 2016 she was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Belfast Telegraph

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