Tributes across Northern Ireland’s political spectrum for ex-secretary of state

·3-min read

The death of James Brokenshire has drawn tributes from across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland.

Senior political figures in the Irish Republic also expressed condolences for the late Conservative MP who served as Northern Ireland Secretary for 18 months, resigning in January 2018 after his lung cancer was diagnosed.

The period coincided with the collapse of powersharing at Stormont – due to a row between the main parties over a botched green energy scheme – and much of Mr Brokenshire’s time in post was dominated by efforts to restore the crisis-hit institutions.

Former DUP leader and Stormont first minister Arlene Foster, one of the key players during that time of intense political upheaval in the region, described him as “one of the good guys”.

“I am so shocked and saddened by James’s death – one of the good guys in politics who handled his diagnosis with such grace,” she said.

“I am of course sending my love and prayers to Cathy and their children as well as all his colleagues and friends.”

Theresa May visit to Northern Ireland
James Brokenshire and former prime minister Theresa May meet ex-first minister Arlene Foster and late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sinn Fein vice president and current deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill posted: “Sad news. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of James Brokenshire.”

Current DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson tweeted: “This is desperately sad news. James was one of the genuinely nicest people I have worked with in politics.

“He often spoke warmly of his time in Northern Ireland as Secretary of State.

“My thoughts & prayers are with his dear wife Cathy & his colleagues in the Conservative Party.”

Irish premier Taoiseach Micheal Martin, who was on a visit to Belfast on Friday, praised Mr Brokenshire’s commitment.

“He was a dedicated politician and public servant whose sincerity and commitment always shone through, specifically in the context of his work in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“He brought integrity, energy and commitment as secretary of state, and was a constructive partner for the Irish Government throughout.

“My sincere condolences to his wife Cathy, children and whole family.”

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney also took to Twitter to pass on his condolences.

“Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of James Brokenshire,” he wrote.

“Working with him as (Secretary) of State for NI, his dedication & commitment shone through. A genuine public servant who made a real positive impact. My thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time.”

NI powersharing talks
James Brokenshire with Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

Former foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan said: “In all my dealings with him, I found him courteous and a politician with a strong sense of duty and integrity. He was a person of character, someone who could be trusted.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described Mr Brokenshire as a “willing negotiator, an engaged minister and a good man”.

“This is very sad news today,” he said.

“James faced the news of his illness with immense courage and a real determination to get well for his family and to return to the job he loved – representing people.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said: “I am shocked at the unbelievably sad news of the death of James Brokenshire. James was an honourable and courageous man who served with distinction as secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

“My thoughts are with his family and friends in these difficult times.”

Alliance Party leader and Stormont Justice Minister Naomi Long tweeted: “He was a real gent to work with and we all wished him well in his battle with lung cancer which he fought valiantly.

“My thoughts are with his wife Cathy, his 3 children, and his friends and colleagues at this very sad time.”

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