Karen Bradley said she was “well aware” of the concerns about the lack of a government in Northern Ireland, but would not be drawn on when – if at all – direct rule will kick in.
Asked about the issue by the BBC while visiting the North West 200 on Thursday, she said: “I’m enjoying the North West 200 today ... let’s get on and enjoy the sport.”
Pressed further, she said: “I think that what we need is local elected politicians back in Stormont doing the thing they were elected to do – working for the people who elected them.”
The exchange comes just a few days after a court threw out a decision to give the go-ahead to an incinerator in Newtownabbey on the grounds that the decision was beyond the power of civil servants to make.
In addition to being on the north coast, she also visited the Balmoral Show, where a picture posted online by Sinn Fein shows her being confronted by Martina Anderson MEP.
The party said Ms Anderson, a former IRA convict, quizzed Mrs Bradley on “a unity poll, Brexit, the need to release the legacy funding, and asked her to apologise for her shameful comments regarding legacy”.