Northern Ireland

Julian Smith: new NI secretary of state confirmed

Newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith leaves Downing Street Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith leaving Downing Street on Wednesday

Julian Smith has been confirmed as the new secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

He was one of many appointments in a major cabinet reshuffle by the new prime minister, Boris Johnson.

Mr Smith has been an MP for Skipton and Ripon since 2010 and most recently held the role of parliamentary secretary to the treasury and chief whip.

Earlier on Wednesday, outgoing secretary Karen Bradley was sacked by the new prime minister.

Boris Johnson has given key cabinet roles to leading Brexiteers.

Dominic Raab and Priti Patel return to government as foreign secretary and home secretary respectively.

Sajid Javid has been named as the new chancellor as more than half of Theresa May's old cabinet, including leadership rival Jeremy Hunt, quit or were sacked.

Julian Smith backed Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Mr Smith served Theresa May as chief whip, a job in which he was unable to guide her proposed EU Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons.

In that role he also worked closely with the DUP and attended the party's annual conference in 2017.

The Ulster Unionist leader, Robin Swann MLA, said Mr Smith would need to "get across his brief extremely quickly".

"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 Féin to hold democracy to ransom by allowing their self-imposed boycott of the institutions to cause further damage to local services," he said.

Image caption Julian Smith talking to Ian Paisley at the DUP party conference in 2017

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MEP wished 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," she added.

Sinn Féin MLA for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy said that Mr Smith did not "inspire confidence given that his only interest in the north to date seems to have been to attend the DUP conference".

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