Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.50 13 Feb 2020


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The Tánaiste has thanked the outgoing Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith for his work restoring power-sharing at Stormont.

Mr Smith was relieved of his duties this morning as part of a cabinet re-shuffle in the UK.

Simon Coveney said he does not believe there would be an Executive at Stormont today were it not for Mr Smith’s leadership.

“You have been such an effective Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at a time of real challenge and risk,” he wrote.

“Without your leadership, I don’t believe Northern Ireland would have a Government today.

“Thank You for your trust, friendship and courage; the UK and Ireland can look to a future with more confidence because of it.”

“The prime minister has to choose who is in the cabinet and who serves,” he said.

“I enjoyed serving the people of Northern Ireland. We have done some really good stuff; there is a lot more to do but it is up to the prime minister and that is the responsibility he has – to choose the cabinet he wants.”

Minister Coveney also looks likely to lose his position as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs following Fine Gael’s poor showing in last week’s election.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster also thanked Mr Smith for his efforts.

“We may not have always agreed (we did sometimes) but his dedication to the role was incredible,” she said.

Mr Smith is one of seven cabinet ministers to lose his job in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s reshuffle. Mr Johnson is expected to announce his new team later today.

Speaking on his way into a meeting in the House of Commons in London this morning, Mr Smith said the decision was out of his hands.

“The prime minister has to choose who is in the cabinet and who serves,” he said.

“I enjoyed serving the people of Northern Ireland. We have done some really good stuff; there is a lot more to do but it is up to the prime minister and that is the responsibility he has – to choose the cabinet he wants.”

Several the ministers to lose their portfolios today had previously found themselves at odds with Mr Johnson.

Mr Smith held different views over Brexit, while the outgoing business secretary Andrea Leadsom and housing minister Esther McVey both ran against him for the Tory leadership.

Environment secretary Theresa Villiers, universities minister Chris Skidmore and transport minister Nusrat Ghani have also lost their portfolios as has the outgoing attorney general Geoffrey Cox.


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Arlene Foster Boris Johnson Julian Smith Northern Ireland Prime Minister Simon Coveney Sotmont

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