A former British soldier who escaped two IRA death attempts during The Troubles has been appointed as a junior minister at the Northern Ireland Office.
Kris Hopkins, MP for the West Yorkshire constituency of Keighley and Ilkley, survived an IRA gun attack in Belfast and a mortar attack in Bessbrook, Co. Armagh.
He said those attacks “fossilized” his view of the IRA.
However, Hopkins signaled his support for devolution in Northern Ireland and said when he watched politicians arguing over issues like water rates, he was thinking “how great it was that they were not trying to kill each other.”
In 2010, he wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Post as a soldier in Northern Ireland.
The article was written four month after the then Prime Minister David Cameron apologized for the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry. The Saville report of June 2010 blamed the British Army for the fatal shooting of 14 civilians during a civil rights march through the city in 1972.
Hopkins said that at the time of the report’s publication “it was difficult for me, as an ex-soldier, to hear the words that were said and their context.” However, the MP said he reiterated his support for the prime minister’s apology.
He also wrote about a meeting with Northern Ireland Deputy first Minister Martin McGuinness – a former IRA leader – when he felt “absolute revulsion and anger.” It was a moment that involved “a huge journey and a massive leap.”
Hopkins, 53, a keen photographer, also wrote about how an iconic photograph, taken during Bloody Sunday, affected him.
He wrote, “One that had a huge impact on me is that of Father Daly, a priest in the United Kingdom, begging for safe passage for injured people. What a terrible situation to have in our country.”
Hopkins was appointed by new British Prime Minister Theresa May to be number two in Belfast to new Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire, following the sacking of Theresa Villiers who was offered a different position but turned it down.
Brokenshire, 48, said last week that it is "an absolute priority for me that we don't see border controls coming into place. Indeed, I think there is a very strong commitment from the Irish government as well as ourselves to see that that doesn't happen.”