Karen Bradley with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Twitter photo.
By Irish Echo Staff
Karen Bradley has been sacked as Northern Ireland Secretary by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
And on Thursday her replacement was announced. Julian Smith, former Conservative Party chief whip under Theresa May, will take up the cabinet post with responsibility for the North.
Bradley’s political head rolled Wednesday, the first day of the Johnson-led British government that brought with it, as an Irish Times headline stated, the “biggest cabinet bloodbath in British history.”
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Bradley, 49, who was an ally of former prime minister Theresa May, departs her Northern Ireland Office job and Hillsborough Castle residency after 19 months in the post, the Times reported.
She was dismissed during a week in which talks were continuing at Stormont aimed at restoring the Northern Executive and Assembly.
“I personally regret that I will not conclude the current talks process,” Bradley said in a statement.
She said it had been “an enormous privilege to represent this special nation and integral part of our precious union.”
Added the Times report: During her period in Northern Ireland, Ms. Bradley was unable to persuade the parties to reinstate Stormont, which has been suspended for more than two-and-a-half years.
“She was accused of failing to have a strong command of her brief, particularly based on her comments that she was not familiar with the distinction between unionists and nationalists.
“She also was criticized for stating that none of the Troubles killings carried out by British soldiers were crimes, a comment she later described as a ‘slip of the tongue.’”
Writing in the Belfast-published Irish News, John Manley opined: “It’s said that you get the politicians you deserve and it could be argued that Karen Bradley was the most appropriate secretary of state for dysfunctional Northern Ireland, where we’ve failed to govern ourselves for the past two-and-a-half years.
“She was ineffectual at best and at worst inept, unable or unwilling to grasp the region’s nuances and complexities.
“The only surprise about her sacking was that it took so long to come.”
Manley did add: “Perhaps unfairly, Mrs Bradley was thrown in at the deep end, arriving just as the negotiations to restore Stormont were climaxing early last year.
“She was not responsible for their collapse but her subsequent efforts to get things back on track appeared lacklustre and half-hearted.
“Yes, she was constrained by her party’s confidence and supply deal with the DUP, and its historic ties to unionism but she made no effort whatsoever to empathise with nationalism.”
In another Johnson cabinet appointment, Priti Patel is now Home Secretary.
Patel came in for criticism last year for suggesting that the UK government should use potential food shortages in Ireland as leverage against the post-Brexit border Backstop.
Her suggestion – which she later stated was taken out of context – came after a British government report, leaked to the Times of London, indicated that there could be food shortages in Ireland in a no-deal Brexit scenario, and the economic impact on Ireland would be worse than in the UK.
Patel was rebuked by then prime minister Theresa May, and Irish EU Commissioner, Phil Hogan, countered by suggesting that it might be Britain that could end up facing food shortages given that 43 percent of its food imports came from Ireland.
Ireland exports, by one estimate, seven times more food than it consumes.