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Britain's Northern Ireland minister resigns

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London (AFP)

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire resigned from his post on Monday, officials said, nearly a year to the day since the collapse of the once-troubled province's semi-autonomous government.

The Northern Ireland office confirmed to AFP that Brokenshire was resigning, as Prime Minister Theresa May plans a wider reshuffle of her cabinet.

British media reports cited sources saying it was because the minister will have to undergo major surgery for a lung lesion in the coming weeks.

Brokenshire, 50, has hosted repeated unsuccessful negotiations between republicans Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party to form a power-sharing executive in British-ruled Northern Ireland.

Following the breakdown of talks, the province is on the brink of direct rule by civil servants in London who have already been managing its budget.

The power-sharing government collapsed in January last year after Sinn Fein pulled out over a scandal involving a renewable energy funding scheme.

The government was set up as a result of the 1998 Good Friday agreement which brought to an end three decades of mostly sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland in which 3,500 people were killed.

Talks are still stalled on two key demands from Sinn Fein, which backs the legalisation of same-sex marriage and legal protection for the Irish language.

Tensions have been raised further after the DUP struck a power deal with May's ruling Conservatives after a general election in June in which she lost her parliamentary majority.

Sinn Fein argues that the deal gives the DUP unfair influence over British government policy in Northern Ireland, including over Brexit negotiations that will have major implications for Ireland's economy.

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