Theresa May foresees future senior cabinet role for Brokenshire

Tánaiste praises ‘understated’ work of Northern Secretary who has stood down for lung surgery

British prime minister Theresa May has indicated she wishes to see Northern Secretary James Brokenshire's resuming in a senior post in her government.

Mr Brokenshire announced on Monday he was resigning as he faces surgery to remove a lesion on his right lung. He said while the operation was expected to “address” the problem, he would need time to recuperate ,and would not be able to continue with his duties in the meantime.

In a letter to Mr Brokenshire, Mrs May thanked him for his work in Northern Ireland, adding: "I very much look forward to working alongside you again when you are back to full health."

She said that “all parties must redouble their efforts to re-establish devolved government through a Northern Ireland executive”.


Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney contacted Mr Brokenshire from Cairo, Egypt, on Monday to "wish him well, and to thank him on behalf of myself and the Irish Government".

"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," said Mr Coveney.

"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. "

Long hours

DUP leader Arlene Foster said this was a difficult time for Mr Brokenshire and his wife and children.

“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. James leaves the role with a very intimate knowledge of Northern Ireland, and I look forward to working with him again in the future.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said while he often disagreed with the position of Mr Brokenshire's government, he always found the Northern Secretary to be "personable, reasonable and, so far as possible, helpful".

He wished Mr Brokenshire and his family well, and added: “It’s clear now that any new talks process aimed at restoring power-sharing must be chaired by an independent arbiter. We cannot undergo the same discussions with a new Secretary of State only to arrive at the same barriers.”

Straight bat

Paying tribute to Mr Brokenshire, Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said: "I respected his honesty, and how he played with a straight bat. I wish him well for the future both with his health and in his political career."

He urged the new Northern Secretary, Karen Bradley, "to hit the ground running" in order to help restore the Northern executive and assembly.

Alliance leader Naomi Long wished Mr Brokenshire well, adding: "We often disagreed, sometimes robustly, but the role of Secretary of State is mostly a thankless task, and I appreciate, particularly in the current political circumstances, it is not an easy role to fulfil."

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times