TORY leadership hopeful Michael Gove has described embattled Secretary of State Karen Bradley as "brilliant".
Mr Gove made the remark as he formally launched his bid to become the next British prime minister.
Discussing the breakdown of Stormont's power-sharing institutions, Mr Gove said: "You need to get them back in government in order to make sure that the rights and concerns of Northern Ireland's nationalists are protected, that's step one, and I would personally lead those talks along with our brilliant Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley."
Ms Bradley has faced heavy criticism in recent months over her handling of Northern Ireland issues, including delays in legislation to compensate victims of historical institutional abuse and refusing to take questions from the media.
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She also faced calls to resign after telling MPs at Westminster that Troubles killings by security forces were "not crimes" and were carried out by people "fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way".
Ms Bradley later apologised for her "deeply insensitive" and "inaccurate" remarks.