Julian Smith 'sacking' a major blunder by Boris Johnson, says Derry MP Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has described the 'sacking' of Secretary of State Julian Smith as a major blunder by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 10:05 am
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 10:06 am
Julian Smith in Derry last year.

“It defies belief that after the successful restoration of power sharing following a three-year collapse, Julian Smith’s reward is a cabinet office P45.

"It tells you all you need to know about Boris Johnson’s attitude to the North that he would sack the most successful Secretary of State in a decade. He is at best indifferent," said the Foyle MP.

Mr. Smith said it had been a privilege to serve the people of the North after being removed from the position in Mr. Johnson's cabinet reshuffle on Thursday.

The former Tory chief whip, whose landmark success in putting together the 'New Decade, New Approach' deal last month was hailed by many as one of the high water marks of British diplomacy in Ireland over the past several years, thanked the Prime Minister for allowing him to serve in the role.

"Serving the people of Northern Ireland has been the biggest privilege. I am extremely grateful to Boris Johnson for giving me the chance to serve this amazing part of our country. The warmth and support from people across Northern Ireland has been incredible," he said.

Mr. Eastwood said that while he has differences with Smith, the Secretary of State has demonstrated a willingness to do business with all parties that was critical to the successful restoration of government.

He said: “I want to place on record my sincere thanks to Julian for the work he’s done over the last few months. His change in approach was central to breaking the logjam at Stormont.

"I found him to be a Secretary of State genuinely committed to acting in the interests of devolution rather than imposing a cabinet agenda on this place. And I remain grateful for the work he undertook with me to secure additional resource for university expansion in Derry.

“The next Secretary of State must be committed to the substance of Julian Smith’s commitments to the North and should learn a lot from his style of engagement.”