Belfast Telegraph

Julian Smith appointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland- Sinn Fein say appointment 'doesn't inspire confidence'

Julian Smith MP (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Julian Smith MP (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Julian Smith has been appointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by new Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The MP for Skipton and Ripon replaces Karen Bradley who held the role since January 2018.

Mr Smith served as Chief Whip of the House of Commons from November 2017 until July 2019.

In Northern Ireland, the emphasis will be on Brexit and its impact on the Irish border, restoring devolved political powersharing at Stormont and combating the threat posed by dissident republicans.

Mr Smith has previously campaigned hard for a fairer funding formula for rural schools.

He has also been closely involved in bringing the Tour de France Grand Depart to the UK.

Prior to becoming an MP, he was an entrepreneur, working in executive recruitment.

He grew up in Stirling in Scotland and read history and English at the University of Birmingham, earlier educated at a local comprehensive.

Political leaders in Northern Ireland urged Mr Smith to engage with parties to secure the restoration of the Stormont Assembly, which has not functioned since January 2017.

Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said: “The major problem within the Northern Ireland Office is the policy it implements rather than the personality that fronts it.

“If Julian Smith continues to follow flawed and failed policies then he will fail like the previous incumbent and the one before that.

“Unfortunately, Julian Smith doesn’t exactly inspire confidence given that his only interest in the North to date seems to have been to attend the DUP conference.

“What we need to see is a change of approach from the British Government."

UUP leader Robin Swann congratulated Mr Smith on his appointment but said he will have to get across his brief "extremely quickly"

"The new Secretary of State must waste no time in taking decisions and bring an end to the indulgence of Sinn Fein and the DUP, to see the Assembly and Executive restored in the near future," he said.

“I urge Julian Smith not to let the DUP-Conservative Confidence and Supply Agreement to influence his decision making and neither should he allow Sinn Fein to hold democracy to ransom by allowing their self-imposed boycott of the institutions to cause further damage to local services. He needs to engage with all Northern Ireland`s main political parties as a matter of urgency."

DUP leader Arlene Foster, posting on social media, congratulated Mr Smith on his appointment, adding: "Enormous in-tray. Important that talks can continue to restore devolution. Our schools & hospitals are crying out for key decisions to be made."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said: “I wish the new Secretary of State well in the role. He has an important role to play in the ongoing talks process and must approach it in an impartial, focused way to help break the deadlock.

“While Karen Bradley’s tenure as Secretary of State will not go down in the history books, I wish her well and thank her for her service. She was doing the job with one arm tied behind her back due to Theresa May’s coalition with the DUP. "

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