- 13 Feb 20
"Even by the ruthless standards of the game, it’s a poor show to sack someone who was doing their job well," he says in a major Hot Press interview.
Boris Johnson has been blasted by Labour’s Newry-born MP for St Helens North, Conor McGinn, for his cabinet reshuffle sacking of Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith.
Since taking over the role 204 days ago from Karen Bradley, who was also sacked by Johnson, Smith had overseen the resumption of the Stormont Assembly and won the trust of various stakeholders.
The word from Westminster is that the key reason for Smith being removed from the post is his past opposition to Brexit.
“His sacking shows that politics is certainly not meritocratic,” Conor McGinn tells Hot Press. “It’s a blood sport, but even by the ruthless standards of the game, it’s a pretty poor show to sack someone who was doing their job well.
“You’ve got to judge people on what they get done and he’s got the institutions back up and running; you’ve got to give him ten out of ten on that,” McGinn, who’s backing Sir Keir Starmer in the current leadership contest, continues. “I feel that he really grabbed the brief by the scruff of the neck and pushed things like the historical institutional abuse compensation. He hasn’t been afraid to mix it with the Northern Ireland parties, and has also been out and about in the community. That’s seen as very important. It was clear that he and Simon Coveney respected each other, and you’ve definitely detected a real shift in the language used by the Northern Ireland Office since Julian Smith came in. It’s much more the language of being in partnership with the Irish government. He’s cast off some of that really grating language that they used to use, as if they were trying to roll back the idea that it’s both governments working together as co-guarantors."
Those sentiments are echoed by the WAVE Trauma Centre who say: “We regret very much that Julian Smith is leaving the NI post. Of all recent Secretary of States he was the one who had the most positive and constructive engagement on legacy issues particularly the pension for the severely injured. We wish him well.”
Also reacting to the news, Tánaiste Simon Coveney commends him for being “such an effective Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at a time of real challenge and risk. Without your leadership I don’t believe Northern Ireland would have a government today.”
In a fast and occasionally furious interview in the next Hot Press, out on Thursday February 20, Conor McGinn talks about the Sinn Féin surge and how it's being greeted in Westminster; the prospects of Irish reunification; the role he played in the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland; why you can be a Catholic and pro-choice; Labour’s anti-semitism row; his run-ins with Jeremy Corbyn; his friendship with Fergal Sharkey and lots more!
U have been such an effective SOS for NI at a time of real challenge & risk. Without your leadership I don’t believe NI would have a Govt today. Thank you @JulianSmithUK for your trust, friendship and courage; UK & #Ireland can look to future with more confidence because of it.
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) February 13, 2020
We regret very much that Julian Smith is leaving the NI post. Of all recent Secretary of State’s he was the one who had the most positive and constructive engagement on legacy issues particularly the pension for the severely injured.
We wish him well. pic.twitter.com/y65ckvv5rW
— WAVE Trauma Centre (@WAVETrauma) February 13, 2020