Julian Smith named new Northern Ireland Secretary
Former Government chief whip Julian Smith has been appointed the new Northern Ireland Secretary.
The MP for Skipton and Ripon in Yorkshire since 2010 has previously focused on rural issues, education, business and international development concerns.
In Northern Ireland, the emphasis will be on Brexit and its impact on the Irish border, restoring devolved political powersharing at Stormont and combating the threat posed by dissident republicans.
Mr Smith has previously campaigned hard for a fairer funding formula for rural schools.
He has also been closely involved in bringing the Tour de France Grand Depart to the UK.
Prior to becoming an MP, he was an entrepreneur, working in executive recruitment.
He grew up in Stirling in Scotland and read history and English at the University of Birmingham, earlier educated at a local comprehensive.
Kirsty McManus, national director of the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland, said: “Given our unique circumstances in Northern Ireland in terms of our vulnerability to the impact of a no-deal Brexit, we will seek an early meeting with Julian as we work to convey the concerns of local business leaders on this and other key issues including skills and productivity.”
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “We will be seeking a meeting with him at the earliest opportunity to impress upon him the importance of the £1.2 billion per annum hospitality sector in Northern Ireland and its central role in the economy here.
“He needs to understand right from the start that we must not leave the EU without a deal; the restoration of the Assembly and Executive is paramount; and reform of the outdated property-based UK rating system is needed as it is now broken and crippling our members’ businesses.”
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said he must waste no time in taking decisions and bring an end to the “indulgence” of Sinn Fein and the DUP, to see the Assembly and Executive restored in the near future.
He said: “I urge Julian Smith not to let the DUP-Conservative Confidence and Supply Agreement to influence his decision making and neither should he allow Sinn Fein to hold democracy to ransom by allowing their self-imposed boycott of the institutions to cause further damage to local services.
“He needs to engage with all Northern Ireland’s main political parties as a matter of urgency.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said: “He has an important role to play in the ongoing talks process and must approach it in an impartial, focused way to help break the deadlock.”