After James Brokenshire's resignation this morning due to health issues, Karen Bradley, UK Culture Secretary, has been named as Northern Ireland Secretary.
Bradley, 47, is a Conservative Party politician and since 2010 has served as MP for Staffordshire Moorlands. She joined the UK's Home Office in 2014 as Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime, and since July 2016 she has been Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.
New Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley MP welcomed to the Northern Ireland Office by the department’s Permanent Secretary Sir Jonathan Stephens #CabinetReshuffle pic.twitter.com/ra3w4w1kOy— NIO (@NIOPressOffice) January 8, 2018
The BBC noted that the appointment will be a sharp learning curve for Bradley, especially with this week marking one year since the devolution of the Northern Ireland government at Stormont:
Bradley said she recognised there were "immediate challenges" in Northern Ireland and that forming an executive at Stormont was her "top priority".
"In the coming days, I look forward to meeting many different people, parties and other groups as I take on this hugely important and exciting role in the prime minister's government," she said.
The mother-of-two has very little past experience of Northern Ireland, and will have to read herself into a complex new brief, meaning an inevitable delay to the start of a fresh round of power-sharing negotiations, says BBC News NI political editor Mark Devenport.
Indeed, the Irish Times reports that Bradley has mentioned Northern Ireland only twice in the House of Commons since 2010:
Karen Bradley mentioned North just twice in Commons since 2010 https://t.co/mfUtOKkyMU— Irish Times World (@IrishTimesWorld) January 8, 2018
DUP leader Arlene Foster greeted the news of Bradley's appointment:
Congratulations to Karen Bradley as new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. She is taking up office with lots waiting on her in-tray. Look forward to an early meeting. It will be busy but Karen now gets to come to the friendliest part of the UK. 🇬🇧— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) January 8, 2018
Brokenshire, Bradley's predecessor, formally made Prime Minister Theresa May aware of his intention to leave the Government this morning, citing “ill health”.
The Sun has reported that the Bexley, south-east London, Member of Parliament, 50, has, “a small lesion on his right lung and will be having major surgery in the coming weeks” and his recovery is expected to last a number of weeks.