James Brokenshire: Stormont politicians pay tribute as former Northern Ireland secretary dies aged 53

By belfastlive.co.uk

The death of former Secretary of State James Brokenshire has drawn tributes from across the political spectrum at Stormont.

The Conservative MP, who had been suffering from lung cancer, died on Thursday evening aged 53 with his family at his bedside.

Mr Brokenshire, a married father of three, had served as Northern Ireland Secretary for 18 months, resigning in January 2018 after his lung cancer was diagnosed.

His tenure coincided with the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont following the RHI scandal and his work was dominated by efforts to restore the crisis-hit institutions.

Former DUP leader and Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster, one of the key players during that period of political upheaval, described him as "one of the good guys".

"I am so shocked and saddened by James's death - one of the good guys in politics who handled his diagnosis with such grace," she said.

"I am of course sending my love and prayers to Cathy and their children as well as all his colleagues and friends."

In July, Mr Brokenshire resigned as security minister after telling Prime Minister Boris Johnson that his recovery from lung cancer surgery in February was taking "longer than expected".

Sinn Féin vice-president and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said her thoughts were with Mr Brokenshire's family.

She said: "He was a daddy and a husband and I just think that to lose someone so young is just so tragic."

"He talked publicly on a number of occasions about his battle with cancer and it's just so sad for them all that this is how it's ended up."

Current DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson tweeted: "This is desperately sad news. James was one of the genuinely nicest people I have worked with in politics.

"He often spoke warmly of his time in Northern Ireland as Secretary of State.

"My thoughts and prayers are with his dear wife Cathy and his colleagues in the Conservative Party."

Senior political figures in the Irish Republic also expressed their condolences.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin, who was on a visit to Belfast on Friday, praised Mr Brokenshire's commitment.

"He was a dedicated politician and public servant whose sincerity and commitment always shone through, specifically in the context of his work in Northern Ireland," he said.

"He brought integrity, energy and commitment as secretary of state, and was a constructive partner for the Irish Government throughout.

"My sincere condolences to his wife Cathy, children and whole family."

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney tweeted: "Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of James Brokenshire.

"Working with him as (Secretary) of State for NI, his dedication and commitment shone through. A genuine public servant who made a real positive impact. My thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described Mr Brokenshire as a "willing negotiator, an engaged minister and a good man".

He said: "James faced the news of his illness with immense courage and a real determination to get well for his family and to return to the job he loved - representing people."

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said: "I am shocked at the unbelievably sad news of the death of James Brokenshire. James was an honourable and courageous man who served with distinction as secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

"My thoughts are with his family and friends in these difficult times."

Alliance Party leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long tweeted: "He was a real gent to work with and we all wished him well in his battle with lung cancer which he fought valiantly.

"My thoughts are with his wife Cathy, his three children, and his friends and colleagues at this very sad time."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "Desperately sad to hear the news about James Brokenshire.

"James was the nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians but also extraordinarily effective."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: "James Brokenshire was a thoroughly decent man, dedicated and effective in all briefs he held.

"He fought his illness with dignity and bravery. I'm incredibly sad to learn of his death and send my condolences to his wife and children."

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