Northern Ireland Secretary quits as UK PM shuffles cabinet

London, Jan 8 : The UK’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on Monday resigned while Prime Minister Theresa May embarked on the most substantial cabinet reshuffle since losing her party’s majority in June. Most senior ministers are expected to keep their posts.

Following a meeting with Conservative leader May, 50-year-old James Brokenshire, whose job had been to represent Northern Ireland in the UK cabinet and oversee, announced he was to step down ahead of major lung surgery, Efe news agency reported.

“In the last few days I have been told that I have a small lesion in my right lung which needs to be removed,” Brokenshire wrote in his resignation letter.

“Clearly, my long term health and my family are my priorities and I intend to proceed with surgery at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Stormont, the regional parliament based in Belfast, has lain dormant for a year following the resignation of the late former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness, which prompted an inconclusive local election and a series of collapsed power-sharing talks.

“There is an urgent need to re-start talks between the parties,” Brokenshire said of the stalled talks between the pro-UK Democratic Unionists and the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein, the antipathetic bedfellows who must share power in Northern Ireland in accordance with the 1998 peace deal that put an end to decades of bloody conflict in the region.

Brokenshire gave notice of his resignation just as May began to overhaul her cabinet with the intention of reinvigorating her minority conservative government.

A crucial post that needed filling was the role of First Secretary of State following the recent departure of Damian Green, a close ally of May who was forced to resign just before Christmas following a breach parliamentary code.

Meanwhile, Brandon Lewis was promoted to Chairman of the Conservative Party, replacing Sir Patrick McLoughlin, a veteran Tory minister who served in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

It was widely anticipated, however, that the most senior ministers, which include the likes of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, would retain their job titles.