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'He worked with unfailing dedication' - Coveney pays tribute as Brokenshire resigns as Northern Irish secretary

Brokenshire, who has resigned over health concerns, had held the position for the past 17 months. The news came ahead of today’s expected cabinet reshuffle in the UK.

Cabinet reshuffle James Brokenshire Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated 3.00pm

CONSERVATIVE MP JAMES Brokenshire has resigned as secretary for Northern Ireland from the UK Cabinet this morning, citing health reasons.

50-year-old Brokenshire had been in the position since July 2016, having taken over from Theresa Villiers in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote.

Brokenshire addressed a letter dated today to Prime Minister Theresa May, informing her that he is to undergo surgery to remove a lesion on his right lung, which would necessitate several weeks of recuperation.

“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,” he wrote.

The right time

2 Excerpt from Brokenshire's letter to Theresa May

I believe that the right thing at this time is for me to stand down from my current responsibilities.

Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney paid tribute to Brokenshire, saying he had “worked with unfailing dedication and determination to secure political progress” in Northern Ireland, adding that he had spoken to the former secretary from Cairo this afternoon.

“His unwavering commitment – in public and in private – over the last year to securing the effective operation of the devolved power-sharing institutions in Belfast has been hugely important,” Coveney said.

While it is not always obvious to the public gaze, very important progress has been made on significant issues over the last year and I believe that a positive outcome can still be achieved. If it is, it will be a testament to the quiet, understated but hugely valuable work of James Brokenshire.

The former secretary’s resignation came immediately prior to the expected cabinet reshuffle on the part of May.

Many ministers are expected to lose their jobs in that reshuffle, with those most senior, including foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit minister David Davis, expected to remain in their positions.

Difficult tenure

Brokenshire’s tenure as secretary proved to be a difficult one.

In the wake of the seismic Brexit vote, the MP for Hornchurch found himself dealing with the aftermath of the collapse of the Northern Irish Assembly over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal.

The country has now been without a functioning executive for just under 12 months.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said that “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. I look forward to working with him again in the future.”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood also paid tribute to Brokenshire, stating that “I’ve always had a very good working relationship with him”.

In the course of negotiations, the SDLP has often disagreed with the position of his government but I have always found Mr Brokenshire to be personable, reasonable and, so far as possible, helpful.

“Our thoughts are with him and his family as he takes time to concentrate on his health,” he added.

Read: ‘If someone breaks into your house you should do whatever you have to to take them on’

Read: Nominations for a new Sinn Féin leader open today

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