Julian Smith pictured with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin last year. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Irish Echo Staff
Just as he was really settling into the job, and at a moment when Northern Ireland politics has been gaining some traction with the resumed Assembly and Executive, the British Secretary of State or Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, has been sacked by Boris Johnson.
Smith was one of a number of casualties in a cabinet reshuffle instigated by Prime Minister Johnson, who recently secured a big majority in parliament following a general election.
An RTE report stated that Smith became the first casualty of Johnson’s government reshuffle after being “unceremoniously dumped” from the Northern Ireland Office.
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“His departure comes just weeks after brokering the deal which restored the power-sharing administration in Stormont,” the report stated.
Mr. Smith said it had been “the biggest privilege” to serve the people of Northern Ireland and he was “extremely grateful” to have been given the chance to serve “this amazing part of our country.”
“The warmth & support from people across NI has been incredible,” he wrote on Twitter. “Thank you so much.”
The RTE report stated: “Appointed last July, sacked by Boris Johnson today, Julian Smith is very obviously unacceptable within Boris Johnson’s administration, strengthened by its December general election victory.
“He was a Remainer and an active Chief Whip when Theresa May was prime minister. That made him vulnerable. His appointment to the Northern Ireland role, replacing Karen Bradley, when Boris Johnson became Tory leader was a surprise. The DUP knew him from their Confidence and Supply dealings with the Conservatives and they were supportive of him getting the job.
“In his time based in Belfast, Julian Smith literally made history. The deal that led to the restoration of power-sharing last month, would not have happened without the drive of the talks’ co-chairs, Julian Smith and Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
“It created a new dynamism in British Irish relationships a very cohesive Northern Ireland Secretary-Minister for Foreign Affairs relationship. When Boris Johnson visited Stormont to laud the return of devolved government last month, he almost gave his Northern Ireland Secretary the vote of confidence. Today he used the wiggle room to sack him.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar lauded Smith’s record stating on Twitter that Smith was one of the finest British politicians.
Wrote Varadkar: “In 8 months as Secretary of State, Julian you helped to restore powersharing in Stormont, secured an agreement with us to avoid a hard border, plus marriage equality. You are one of Britain’s finest politicians of our time. Thank you.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney also praised Smith. Again on Twitter: “U have been such an effective SOS for NI at a time of real challenge & risk. Without your leadership I don’t believe NI would have a Govt today. Thank you @JulianSmithUK for your trust, friendship and courage; UK & #Ireland can look to future with more confidence because of it.”