A Tory MP who has only ever spoken about the north twice in her parliamentary career has been appointed as the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Karen Bradley, who represents the English constituency of Staffordshire, was formerly the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
The 47-year-old was appointed on Monday after previous Secretary of State James Brokenshire announced his resignation from the cabinet for health reasons.
Mrs Bradley was appointed on the anniversary of the collapse of Stormont and faces an uphill battle to get the political process back on track.
However speaking after the announcement, she said she was looking forward to her new role.
“A key part of my role will be to help build a Northern Ireland that is fit for the future and works for everyone,” she said. “In seeking to achieve that I want to work closely with all parties, the Irish government as appropriate, and with all sections of the community. Be assured the UK government remains fully committed to the Belfast Agreement, its principles and institutions.
“Clearly, there are immediate challenges. It is now a year since Northern Ireland has had an effective, functioning power-sharing administration, and forming a Northern Ireland Executive to deliver for the benefit of all is my top priority. I believe a devolved government in Belfast is best placed to address these issues and take the key decisions which affect people’s day to day lives – whether these relate to the economy, public services or issues of policing and justice.
“We must also continue the work to deliver a Brexit that recognises Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances and avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland while maintaining the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.
Alongside these issues, I am conscious of the need to establish a stronger economy and a shared society, to address the legacy of the past and to keep people safe and secure.
“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.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster congratulated the MP and said she welcomed her to the “friendliest part of the UK”.