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Karen Bradley 'honoured' to be named Northern Ireland Secretary of State

By Jonathan Bell

Karen Bradley said being named new Northern Ireland Secretary of State was a "great honour" and her top priority was the restoration of government at Stormont.

Mrs Bradley, MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, was formerly in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and is considered a close ally of Prime Minister Theresa May.

She was appointed to the position after James Brokenshire stood down for health reasons during Monday's Cabinet reshuffle and said he top priority was to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

"I believe a devolved government in Belfast is best placed to address these issues and take the key decisions which affect people’s day to day lives - whether these relate to the economy, public services or issues of policing and justice," she said noting a year had past since the Executive last met.

"It is a great honour to be asked to serve as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, particularly at such a decisive moment for Northern Ireland and the whole United Kingdom," she added.

"I would like to pay the warmest tribute to my predecessor and friend, James Brokenshire, who did such an outstanding job. I wish him all the very best for his medical treatment and for a speedy recovery."

Mrs Bradly grew up in Buxton with her parents who ran a hotel and pub, the Queen's Head Hotel. She attended Buxton Girls' School before gaining a BSc in Maths from Imperial College London.

She worked with the Conservatives from 2005 in the party's policy unit specialising in tax matters before contesting unsuccessful for election in 2005. A former Home Office minister she was first elected to parliament in 2010. Mrs Bradley lives in Leek with her husband and two children.

"Northern Ireland is a very special part of our United Kingdom and has huge potential," continued Mrs Bradley.

"A key part of my role will be to help build a Northern Ireland that is fit for the future and works for everyone. In seeking to achieve that I want to work closely with all parties, the Irish government as appropriate, and with all sections of the community.  Be assured the UK Government remains fully committed to the Belfast Agreement, its principles and institutions."

She continued: "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.

The UK Government remains fully committed to the Belfast Agreement, its principles and institutions.

"Alongside these issues, I am conscious of the need to establish a stronger economy and a shared society, to address the legacy of the past and to keep people safe and secure.

"In the coming days, I look forward to meeting many different people, parties and other groups as I take on this hugely important and exciting role in the Prime Minister's Government."

Business representatives welcomed her appointment saying her priority should be the restoration of Stormont's devolved institutions.

“An immediate priority will of course be the re-establishment of an inclusive devolved government for this region," Angela McGowan director of the CBI in Northern Ireland said.

"In addition, Minister Bradley will have to grapple with the swift development of a new Northern Ireland budget which will restore NI’s public finances to a more sustainable footing.

“The new Secretary of State must also be a strong advocate for the region’s economic interests – ensuring Northern Ireland’s unique vulnerability to a ‘no deal’ Brexit is fully understood across the corridors of Whitehall. Local firms are adamant that any proposed EU/UK deal must guarantee seamless, frictionless trade both east/west and north/south to both uphold the principles of the Good Friday Agreement and safeguard peace and prosperity.”

Glyn Roberts, chief Executive of Retail NI which represents small and independent business, added: "Karen Bradley must hit the ground running in an renewed effort to restore devolution and avoid direct rule. Her appointment will hopefully give new momentum to an intensive talks process which leads to the Executive being re-established.

“Our members are beyond frustration at the continuing political deadlock and lack of a Government. We will never be able to fully move our economy forward while we have this level of political instability.

“Karen Bradley has a incredibly tough role over the next few months and wish her well in her efforts. We look forward to working her."

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