Julian Smith: Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2019


Julian Smith, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,
speaking today at Conservative Party Conference at The
Manchester Convention Centre
, said:

(Check against delivery)


– it is a privilege and an honour to be here as NI secretary today …… and a
massive relief to no longer be the Government’s Chief Whip. Northern Ireland is
a unique     part of the United Kingdom with
an important and difficult history that all of us are familiar with…  

being appointed Secretary of State 70 days ago, I’ve been travelling to every
corner of Northern Ireland meeting hundreds of people…  And when talking to entrepreneurs, hospital
staff, youth groups and volunteers…

have been struck by people’s attitude… by their huge ambition and commitment
despite the   absence of political
decision making from Stormont… …Whether at Musgrave Park Hospital or Ashfield
Boy’s School in​Belfast or at Derry City
and Strabane District Council…

have not only been unfailingly challenging, engaged, and ​fair
to me as a new Secretary of State… but there is a real entrepreneurial
spirit, a desire for Northern Ireland  
to grow and prosper.    

a few weeks ago​, I saw this first hand
at an event organised by a new trade group…
This trade group was formed just a year ago by three business people …
Glyn Roberts, Stephen Kelly and Colin Neill … it      

350 businesses to    Westminster…  It was Northern Ireland’s largest ever
business   delegation  …To represent the region’s growing and
self-confident business community…to
convey a clear message — Northern Ireland is open for business.

message was heard very loudly yesterday when the energy company Infrastrata
announced its acquisition of the iconic  
Belfast shipyard ​Harland   and Wolff. ​Throughout
the Summer I’ve
been working with the unions, Gavin    

the DUP local    MP, the administrators
and    the workforce to save the     yard from closure.   Shipbuilding will now   continue and thrive in    Belfast thanks to a    Conservative government. And ​this
Conservative   Government is
supporting   the ambition of all

businesses across Northern Ireland — by investing in the nation’s growing
economy. …through the biggest day-to-day funding settlement for Northern
Ireland in a decade – ​400M announced for NI in
the spending review  

morning I announced that the people and businesses of ​Mid-South
West Northern Ireland and Causeway Coast and Glens will benefit from £163 million of UK
Government    funding … supporting   economic growth, job creation and investment
in local projects​.

means that ​every part     of Northern Ireland now    benefits from Growth Deal    funding. Under this Conservative   Government, Northern Ireland’s economy
is   growing. Ambition is being    encouraged and  

spirit is thriving. We’ve seen unemployment fall to a record low of 2.8%       and employment is at a near record high.
…And for this prosperity to continue, we must get    Brexit done and deliver a stable devolved

am clear that the people of Northern Ireland, just like this Government, and
this Prime Minister want a deal. And I will be doing everything I can in my
role as Northern Ireland   Secretary to
help the Prime Minister secure a deal  

to protect the NI economy, the Good Friday Agreement and through that the hard-won
peace process. And in the context of Brexit, the challenge of restoring  Stormont has become even    more important…

has been no    devolved government
for   over 1,000 days… …political decisions
impacting citizens lives left    unmade
…Vital actions relating to    health
and social services,  education,
agriculture not taken.

now must urgently do all we can to collectively invoke the spirit and trust of those
who built the peace     process… To
listen to young people who have an inspiring and amazing hope for the future…  

spite of and because of the challenges they and their families have faced in the
past… …… ​They will benefit from new jobs created
in Northern Ireland as a result of this Government’s commitment to
attracting investment…

…From the increased university funding
committed in those new city and growth deals… And if Stormont was up and
running, even more could be achieved…. apprenticeships and skills academies
across the   region…

wealth creation and new jobs for school-leavers and graduates… …delivering on
health and    social services. The
Government stands ready to support a northern Irish political leader in all these

above all…. it is vital for those young people that we deliver a prosperous
future for   Northern Ireland. A future
that can only be delivered through the union and by getting a good economy and
security-protecting Brexit deal and getting Stormont back up    

And I’ll be spending the rest
of the coming weeks trying to do exactly that.