Boris Johnson, the freshly installed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has announced that Julian Smith is to become his new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the de facto governor general of the UK’s colonial holdout on this side of the Irish Sea. So the British administration in the Six Counties is moving on from the gormless English politician Karen Bradley, who claimed that the civilian deaths inflicted by Britain’s military and paramilitary forces during the era of the Troubles were “not crimes”, to an English MP with a rather better reputation in London.
Smith was appointed as the Chief Whip of the House of Commons by Theresa May in 2017 and subsequently helped coordinate the government’s Westminster alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, boasting that he was working with the hard-right grouping to “…ensure that Northern Ireland will never be separated from U.K as we leave EU“. This was emphasised during his star attendance and speech at the DUP’s party conference in November 2017, followed up by repeated assuaging of the DUP’s exorbitant demands including more recent negotiations to maintain its wayward parliamentary support.
As an indicator of Boris Johnson’s thinking on the potentially fatal consequences for the Irish-British peace process if a no-deal or hardline Brexit becomes policy in London, appointing a sympathetic ear for the Democratic Unionists to the supposedly neutral office of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is a worrying sign. If peace comes dropping slow, so does war.