UK PM dismisses North of Ireland Minister, appoints hard liner
The appointment of Lewis has raised fears that Johnson wants to put down growing calls for Irish reunification in the wake of Brexit.
British Direct Ruler Julian Smith has been sacked by British PM Boris Johnson, just over six months since he took up the post.
Smith has been replaced with Brandon Lewis, a former chair of the Conservative Party and a Security Minister in Johnson’s cabinet.
Smith’s departure comes as part of a cabinet reshuffle by Johnson. It is believed his card was marked after he broke ranks with Brexit hardliners last year by warning that a crash Brexit would be “very, very bad for Northern Ireland”.
The appointment of Lewis has raised fears that Johnson wants to put down growing calls for Irish reunification in the wake of Brexit. Speculation about Mr Smith’s sacking has also centred on the terms of the recent Stormont talks deal, which he helped to negotiate.
There had been Tory criticism that the talks deal to restore power-sharing failed to eliminate the possibility of prosecutions of British soldiers over war crimes in Ireland.
Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said she was seeking an urgent meeting with British officials over the change.
“Reports from London that Julian Smith was sacked as a result of commitments made to bring forward legislation to implement the legacy bodies agreed at Stormont House are very concerning for victims of the conflict and their families,” she said.