New NI secretary to make her first visit

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Karen Bradley was in Downing Street on Tuesday after getting her new portfolio

Northern Ireland’s new Secretary of State Karen Bradley is due to arrive in Belfast later for her first official engagement since taking up her post.

The trip will be the first time that she has set foot in Northern Ireland, either personally or professionally.

She previously held the role of culture secretary, until Prime Minister Theresa May reshuffled her cabinet on Monday.

Mrs Bradley replaced James Brokenshire, who quit his role as Northern Ireland secretary for health reasons.

Mr Brokenshire revealed that he requires surgery for a lesion on his lung, and intends to take a number of weeks off before returning to politics.

In a statement shortly after her appointment, Mrs Bradley described it as a “great honour” and said the restoration of devolution was her “top priority”.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since 9 January 2017, when Sinn Féin pulled the plug on its power-sharing coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

‘Over the pub’

Mrs Bradley is the Conservative MP for the English constituency of Staffordshire Moorlands but has little experience of Northern Ireland politics.

She was born in the Moorlands area 47 years ago and grew up “over the pub” in the nearby town of Buxton, where her family ran the Queen’s Head Hotel.

Her website states this childhood experience gave her “a unique introduction to people from all walks of life”.

She was educated at her local comprehensive school and later studied for her maths degree at Imperial College, London.

Mrs Bradley then worked as an accountant and a tax adviser for almost 20 years, before entering politics.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mrs Bradley previously held the role of secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

She was first elected as the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands in 2010 and successfully defended her seat in the 2015 and 2017 general elections.

She has held a number of government positions, including senior Whip at the Treasury.

‘Landmark legislation’

In February 2014, she replaced her friend and colleague Mr Brokenshire as a junior minister at the Home Office.

As parliamentary under secretary of state in that department, her responsibilities included tackling:

  • extremism
  • child sexual abuse
  • modern slavery
  • violence against women and girls
  • gang violence
  • hate crime

Her website states that during this role she secured the passing of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, which it describes as a “landmark piece of legislation” that will protect people from enforced labour.

In July 2016, Mrs Bradley was appointed secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport.

Her tenure was dominated by her decision to refer Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox’s takeover bid for Sky to the media and competition regulators.

Before her election, she helped to develop social and fiscal policies by contributing to reports for several think tanks and in 2008, she co-authored a childcare report for the Policy Exchange think tank entitled “Little Britons: Financing Childcare Choice”.

The married mother-of-two lives with her family in Leek, Staffordshire.

She lists her hobbies as cooking and walking in the Staffordshire Peak District.

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