A 47-year-old English MP has been appointed as the new British Direct Ruler in the north of Ireland, taking over from the departing James Brokenshire. Karen Bradley has no known connection to Ireland.
The announcement was made this evening by British Prime Minister Theresa May as part of a general cabinet reshuffle.
Bradley has previously worked on developing economic and fiscal policies for the Tories before securing a position at the Home Office in 2015, where she had responsibility for Organised Crime. She won a promotion to the post of Culture Secretary in 2016 before today’s move, viewed as a sideways promotion in the ranks of the British government. Late last year she made headlines for her concerns over the broadcasting takeover of Sky plc by 21st Century Fox.
Bradley represents her home constituency of Staffordshire Moorlands, near the city of Stoke in the English midlands, and has a degree in Mathematics. She becomes the third female British Direct Ruler, after Mo Mowlam and Theresa Villiers. She is is thought to be ambivalent on Brexit, but previously described a move to take Britain out of the EU single market as “nonsensical”.
Her appointment will raise hopes of a new Tory departure on the Irish peace process and Brexit negotiations on the border.
Earlier today, it was revealed that James Brokenshire was stepping down as Direct Ruler after just 18 months in the post, ostensibly for health reasons.
In his letter of resignation to Ms May, Brokenshire said he expected to be able to return to work “relatively quickly” after an upcoming surgical procedure. However, he added that he would not “be able to give the effort, energy and complete focus needed at this important time” and therefore believed that “the right thing at this time” is to “stand down from my current responsibilities”.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said 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.”
In a tweet, Sinn Fein’s leader in the north, Michelle O’Neill, said she wished Mr Brokenshire a “speedy recovery”. She added: “Best wishes to you and your family at this time.”