Northern Ireland news

Julian Smith was the fifth secretary of state in just 10 years

Former secretary of state Julian Smith. File picture by Mark Marlow

THE sacking of Julian Smith means his successor Brandon Lewis will become the sixth secretary of state in just 10 years.

The role, widely seen as one of the most difficult in cabinet, has rarely been held by the same person for longer than two years.

Mr Smith, who was sacked in a cabinet reshuffle less than eight months after he took up the post, was one of the shortest-lived secretaries in recent history.

However, he had a longer tenure than Tory MP Francis Pym who served just four months as secretary of state between December 2, 1973 and March 4, 1974.

2019-2020: Julian Smith

Mr Smith was appointed on July 24 last year.

The Remain-backing MP achieved several successes, including helping to broker the return of a power-sharing administration at Stormont in January - three years after it collapsed.

He will also be remembered for his work in bringing about legislation to set up a compensation scheme for survivors of institutional abuse.

Under his tenure, abortion was decriminalised and same-sex marriage was extended to Northern Ireland.

However, his uneasy relationship with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, particularly over Brexit, led to his departure.

2018-2019: Karen Bradley

Mrs Bradley was widely criticised for a series of blunders, including her admission that she knew almost nothing about the north's political history.

She was also condemned for suggesting that killings carried out by the British army and police during the Troubles were "not crimes".

Despite being in post for 19 months, she could not persuade the north's parties to return to power-sharing.

2016-2018: James Brokenshire

He resigned from cabinet in early 2018 after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

His resignation came a year after Stormont collapsed amid the renewable heat incentive (RHI) 'cash for ash' scandal.

Despite early talks in a bid to restore the power-sharing executive, Mr Brokenshire was seen as largely ineffective in bringing the parties together.

Sinn Féin walked out of initial crisis talks, claiming Mr Brokenshire had done nothing but "waffle".

2012-2016: Theresa Villiers

Ms Villiers had one of the longest tenures as a secretary of state. Appointed under Prime Minister David Cameron, she turned down a role in his successor Theresa May's government.

She played a key role in helping to negotiate the 2014 Stormont House Agreement and the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement, which staved off the threat of a power-sharing collapse.

However, as a leading Leave campaigner she clashed with most of the north's parties, apart from the DUP, in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote.

2010-2012: Owen Paterson

Mr Paterson was appointed under the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition. He oversaw the landmark Saville Report into Bloody Sunday which led to a public apology from Prime Minister David Cameron.

However, he was criticised for opposing gay marriage and his record on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

A key Brexiteer, he claimed that it was "ludicrous" to suggest the UK's departure from the European Union would threatened the peace process or lead to a hard border.

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