‘Great honour’ to be appointed Northern Ireland Secretary, says Hilary Benn

Hilary Benn said it is a “great honour” to be appointed as Northern Ireland Secretary as he pledged to help the region reach “its full potential”.

Mr Benn had been serving as the shadow NI secretary since 2023 and was chairman of the Brexit Select Committee for years.

The Leeds MP was among new British Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer’s Cabinet appointees.

Sir Keir and Mr Benn have previously said a Labour government would repeal the controversial Legacy Act, introduced by the Tories to address Troubles legacy issues and widely opposed by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland.

Mr Benn was also vocal in urging the powersharing institutions to be revived during the three-year hiatus.

He takes over from the Conservatives’ Chris Heaton-Harris, who has been in the role for almost two years and did not contest the General Election.

“It is a great honour to be appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,” Mr Benn said in a post on social media site X.

“I look forward to working with all the NI parties, to upholding the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and to helping NI realise its full potential as a fantastic place to live, work and invest.”

Irish deputy premier and foreign affairs minister Micheal Martin spoke by phone with Mr Benn to congratulate him.

“We both agreed on the importance of close co-operation between our Governments on a range of issues related to Northern Ireland and in our role as guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.

“A strong and visible joint approach between the Irish and British Governments on Northern Ireland is the bedrock of positive progress and I look forward to working closely with the Secretary of State in this respect.

“We had a constructive conversation on legacy issues and agreed to work together on a path forward. This is a vital endeavour and I am committed to taking it forward with urgency with the Secretary of State.”

Mr Benn served in Gordon Brown’s government as environment secretary and was a candidate to be deputy leader of Labour in 2007.

Best known in the earlier stages of his career as the son of Tony Benn – the long-serving Cabinet minister, anti-war campaigner and pivotal figure on the Labour left – Mr Benn has not inherited all of his father’s beliefs.

During the 1999 contest for the Leeds Central seat that he would go on to represent for decades, Mr Benn described himself as a “Benn, but not a Bennite”.

He supported the Iraq war while serving in Sir Tony Blair’s government and later, as shadow foreign secretary, defied then-leader Jeremy Corbyn to back military action against the so-called Islamic State in Syria.