It is a great honour to have been asked by the Prime Minister to serve as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I am delighted with my appointment.
I want to pay the fullest tribute to my predecessor, Theresa Villiers, who worked tirelessly for the people of Northern Ireland. As a result of her success in negotiating the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements, Northern Ireland is stronger and politics more stable than for many years.
The Prime Minister said in her statement yesterday, there is a “precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”. I know from my previous visits to Northern Ireland that it is a very special and valued part of our United Kingdom and which has so much potential as a place to invest and do business.
A key priority for me is to continue with the full implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements, to help tackle paramilitarism, put the Executive’s finances on a secure footing and address the legacy of the past. I also want to maintain the Government’s full support for the Belfast Agreement.
Another huge challenge is to ensure that we make a success of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. It is vital that Northern Ireland’s interests are fully protected and advanced including in relation to the border.
I am looking forward to working closely over the coming weeks and months with the Executive, the Irish Government and the whole community in Northern Ireland to build a brighter, more secure future for everyone.