Who is new defence minister Penny Mordaunt and what has she said about NI?

Penny Mordaunt is the new defence secretary
Penny Mordaunt is the new defence secretary
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As well as being the new defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt also remains minister for women and equalities.

In this role she has been a proponent of gay marriage and indicated she wishes to see a change in Northern Ireland’s position on abortion – things the government’s de facto partners in the DUP have opposed.

For example, she told the House of Commons last July the issue of “equal marriage in Northern Ireland... is in my in-tray”.

Asked to clarify what she meant, she said “a huge number of letters are written to me every week on it”.

However Ms Mordaunt (who voted to legalise gay marriage in GB) pledged not to bring in any legislation on the matter in Westminster, saying she wants “Northern Ireland to resolve these matters”.

On abortion, she told the Commons last week of the “complete paucity of care being endured by women in Northern Ireland” and that she is “focusing on what we can do with the powers that we have to ensure that, within the current restrictions, every woman who needs particular healthcare services has access to them”.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told the News Letter: “Penny Mordaunt will continue to be minister for Women and Equality. But her responsibilities in that regard are quite separate from her role as Secretary of State for Defence.

“We’ve no problem working with Penny on all of these issues. And we’d expect she’ll adhere to the clear policy decision of the government that matters that are devolved to Northern Ireland should remain an issue to be dealt with by the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive.”

Among her other activities, Ms Mordaunt has also ushered in a consultation on changing the law on gender; effectively, this could let people legally designate as a men or a women without any medical diagnosis.

In 2014, Ms Mordaunt was widely reported admitting to staging an address in Parliament so she could use the word “c**k” repeatedly as a dare – leading Labour MP Kate Hoey to accuse her of treating Parliament like a “reality TV show”,