James Brokenshire has resigned as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for health reasons – he’s due to have surgery on a small lesion on his right lung in the coming weeks – in a sad end to his Cabinet career. Brokenshire arrived at the Northern Ireland Office tipped for big things: he had been a junior minister and steadfast ally of Theresa May’s at the Home Office and was expected to enjoy a long and glittering career under her premiership.
But his prospects began to collapse along with devolved rule in Northern Ireland, as the recriminations around the so-called “cash for ash” scandal – in which Stormont’s renewable energy subsidy was found to have been designed in a way that encouraged businesses to produce more energy than they had before in order to collect more subsidies – caused the resignation of Martin McGuinness as deputy firsty minister and with it the end of power-sharing.
The repeated failure to restart power-sharing, marked by a series of “final deadlines” from the Northern Ireland Office, eroded Brokenshire’s standing with both Sinn Féin and the DUP, as well as the rest of the Northern Irish political establishment.
His replacement, whoever they may be, faces a tough task in restoring the credibility of the department and managing the new world in which, for the forseeable future, power-sharing looks unlikely to make a return.