The departure of Theresa Villiers from her position as Northern Ireland Secretary of State has been welcomed in some quarters in Derry.
Ms Villiers resigned from the British Cabinet yesterday following a senior staff reshuffle led by new British Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Conservative MP entered the Northern Ireland position in September, 2012. As she departed she claimed that she had been offered a new Cabinet post by Theresa May, but stated “it was not one I felt I could take on.”
It is understood that the post was that of Security Minister at the Home Office-which would have taken her outside the Cabinet.
The outgoing Secretary of State was a vociferous advocate for taking the UK out of the European Union.
Part of Ms Villier’s remit whilst in place at the Northern Ireland Office was to oversee the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement-however, with her return to the Commons back benches, the issue of dealing with the past still remains unresolved.
Kate Nash, whose brother was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, and she told the ‘Journal’: “I am glad to see the woman go. She always struck me as cold and unapproachable.
“I tried several times to secure a meeting with her but it was never agreed to. In my opinion she was not there to do her best for victims but to continue the state cover-up into what Britain was involved in here. More importantly she tried her best to make sure that no British soldiers would ever stand trial for their actions.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson took to ‘Twitter’ to express her views on the outgoing Secretary of State and posted the following: “Theresa Villiers will be no big loss-all British Secretary of States should stay over there.”
Ms Anderson also told the ‘Journal’: “Throughout her time as Secretary of State Theresa Villiers displayed a partisan approach to the North that had a negative impact on the political process and she will not be missed.
“On the EU Referendum she was totally at odds with the people of the North and we called on her to go. She also played a negative role in dealing with the legacy of the conflict, continually placing obstacles in the path of families seeking access to truth.
“Her government was intent on pursuing an aggressive policy and attacking public services. Sinn Fein believes that the position of Secretary of State should be abolished and the remaining powers of the NIO should be transferred to the Assembly.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood told the ‘Journal’: “Theresa Villiers was somebody who was hard working and put long hours in when it came to negotiations. We disagreed publicly and privately, and disagreed a lot more than we agreed on anything, but I wish her well in her endeavours.
“What we need now is a Secretary of State who understands that the Good Friday Agreement is paramount and that it is rooted in staying within the EU. Theresa May needs also to have an open relationship with the Irish Government in moving towards a resolution on the past which is inclusive of all parties and all the people concerned. That is the only way we can move forward.”
On the EU Referendum she was totally at odds with the people of the North-Martina AndersonI am glad to see the woman go. She always struck me as cold and unapproachable-Kate Nash
Yesterday afternoon, Ms Villiers was replaced in the Northern Ireland Office by James Brokenshire, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup.
He had previously served as immigration minister. He was in favour of a Remain Vote in last month’s EU referendum.
From May 2011 to May 2015, he served as security minister at the Home Office with responsibility for domestic national security and counter terrorism.
This included supporting the home secretary with oversight of the work of MI5 and the national police counter-terrorism network.
His responsibilities also included the government’s counter-terrorism strategy and he was part of the prime minister’s “extremism taskforce”.
Commenting on the appointment Colum Eastwood said: “In a welcome contrast to his predecessor, Mr Brokenshire was a Remainer, knew the benefits of staying in the EU and the consequences of leaving. In his role as Secretary of State he must act in the best interests of people of Northern Ireland, and I urge him to listen to his original instincts and ensure the democratic will here is upheld.”