DUP’s Donaldson hails new Secretary of State Brokenshire

James Brokenshire arrives in Downing Street. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
James Brokenshire arrives in Downing Street. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Jeffrey Donaldson has said he is looking forward to working with new Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire.

The DUP MP for Lagan Valley said: “I have known James since he was elected to the House of Commons and latterly I’ve met him a few times as a Home Office minister. I have always found him to be a very affable character who is easy to relate to.

“There is no doubting his ability as a minister, and he is very highly regarded in the House of Commons as someone who had a good grasp of his portfolio in the Home Office, and I’m sure the same will apply in the Northern Ireland Office.

“I’m sure that as a Conservative his natural inclination is to support the Union, but my experience of him is that he will be able to work with everyone and will be even-handed in his approach.”

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt MLA congratulated Mr Brokenshire on his appointment and said he also was looking forward to working with him.

“We hope to see James actively engage with the Official Opposition as well as the Northern Ireland Executive.”

Mr Nesbitt added: “I also wish Theresa Villiers well for the future.”

Colum Eastwood paid tribute to Ms Villiers as a “hard working Secretary of State,” as well as urging her successor to approach the challenges of the role “openly and with a listening ear”.

The SDLP leader said: “The most important issue the SDLP is working on is the campaign to protect Northern Ireland’s position in the European Union.

“In a welcome contrast to his predecessor, Mr Brokenshire was a ‘remainer,’ knew the benefits of staying in the EU and the consequences of leaving.

“He must act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, and I urge him to listen to his original instincts and ensure the democratic will here is upheld.”

Alliance leader David Ford also called on Mr Brokenshire to recognise the desire of the majority in the Province to remain in the EU.

“That will involve fighting for Northern Ireland in any Brexit negotiations. By articulating he will be an active advocate of the interests of Northern Ireland, both within the Cabinet and within EU discussions.”

Mr Ford said there had been difficulties implementing a number of agreements presided over by Ms Villiers which showcased “the tensions and unresolved issues among other parties that continue to limit Northern Ireland’s true potential”.

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd has said Ms Villiers’ input to politics here will “not be missed,” as she has been “the representative of a British Government which inflicted austerity, welfare cuts and now Brexit”.

Mr O’Dowd added: “The position of Secretary of State is unnecessary. It should be abolished and all remaining powers of the NIO transferred to the Assembly.”

Fianna Fail spokesman on foreign affairs and trade Darragh O’Brien said he looked forward to working with Mr Brokenshire – saying there was “serious work to be done for victims, dealing with the legacy of the past and ensuring the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement”.