Chris Heaton-Harris announced as new Northern Ireland secretary – BBC

By Jayne McCormack
BBC News NI political correspondent

Chris Heaton-Harris has been announced as the new Northern Ireland secretary.
He is the third Conservative MP to hold the role within the past three months and replaces Shailesh Vara who was sacked earlier.
Mr Vara, who was in the role for 62 days, becomes the shortest serving Northern Ireland secretary ever.
Mr Heaton-Harris' appointment was officially announced by Downing Street, as new Prime Minister Liz Truss finalises her cabinet.
Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns said he looked forward to supporting the new Northern Ireland secretary.
Congratulations @chhcalling on his appointment as SoS for Northern Ireland. Spent some of today making sure prep was in hand for @NIOgov Oral questions tomorrow morning. Chris is a good man and a friend. Look forward to supporting him in the chamber.
Mr Heaton-Harris has been the MP for Daventry since 2010 and, most recently, was the government's chief whip.
He was at one stage a member of the European Parliament (MEP) and staunchly pro-Brexit.
He also chaired the Eurosceptic group of Conservative MPs, the European Research Group (ERG), for six years.
In 2017, he attracted controversy when he wrote to UK universities asking for names of professors who taught courses on Brexit.
Mr Heaton-Harris faces a number of pressing issues in his new role, in particular the lack of a functioning power-sharing government at Stormont and ongoing rows about the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who were returned as the second-largest party in May's assembly elections and oppose the protocol, have refused to take part in a power-sharing government until its concerns are resolved.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson congratulated Mr Heaton-Harris on his appointment and said he has asked for an urgent meeting with him.
Speaking to BBC News NI, Mr Donaldson said the new secretary of state "knows Northern Ireland well".
"He was formerly a minister involved in negotiations with the EU about resolving the issues on the protocol and getting Northern Ireland's place in the internal market restored.
"Recently he's been chief whip, I've worked closely with him on the protocol bill, so he understands the issues that are confronting us at this time and I'm hopeful that as secretary of state he will bring that voice to the cabinet table to get this done, get a solution on the protocol and then let's move on."
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood, whose party is anti-Brexit and supports negotiations with the EU on maintaining the protocol, said: "Chris' politics are totally different to mine, he's a very hard-line Brexiteer, but I know him, I like him, he seems to be a good enough guy.
"But what we really need now are some grown-ups in the British government, prepared to properly sit down and negotiate with the European Commission, that's the only way any of these issues will be resolved."
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney tweeted that he has known Mr Heaton-Harris since they were both members of the European Parliament and that he looked forward to working with him closely in the coming months, adding: "First job – a functioning executive for NI."
Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) which opposes the NI Protocol, said he and Mr Heaton-Harris had been on the "same side in Eurosceptic battles in Brussels".
"I always found him good to work with. I trust he will play an active part in delivering NI from the iniquitous protocol," he added.
Shailesh Vara, who supported Rishi Sunak during the Conservative leadership campaign, left the role as the shortest serving Northern Ireland secretary ever, having replaced Brandon Lewis 62 days ago during the crisis that ended Boris Johnson's premiership.
He beats Francis Pym's previous record of three months and two days.
During his time in the Northern Ireland Office, Mr Vara said he would carry out his legal duty to call a fresh assembly election if power sharing was not restored at Stormont by the end of October.
Great privilege and honour to serve as Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office and work with some excellent people.
My best wishes to the new PM and I look forward to supporting the government from the backbenches.@NIOgov
In a tweet, Mr Vara said it had been a "great privilege and honour to serve as secretary of state at the Northern Ireland Office and work with some excellent people".
He sent best wishes to the new prime minister and said he looked forward to supporting the government from the backbenches.
Northern Ireland has now got its 24th secretary of state.
Mr Heaton-Harris will, at some point this week, most likely come to Belfast to be greeted by officials in the Northern Ireland Office and be briefed on the main issues.
On Wednesday morning – at 11:30 BST exactly – he will take to the dispatch box in the House of Commons to face his first Northern Ireland questions.
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