British Home Secretary Suella Braverman is facing calls to be sacked after she likened pro-Palestinian marches in London to sectarian marches in Northern Ireland.
"The hate marchers — a phrase I do not resile from — intend to use Armistice Day [November 11] to parade through London in yet another show of strength," Braverman wrote in her November 8 op-ed for The Times.
She continued: "I do not believe that these marches are merely a cry for help for Gaza.
"They are an assertion of primacy by certain groups — particularly Islamists — of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland.
"Also disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster are the reports that some of Saturday’s march group organisers have links to terrorist groups, including Hamas."
Braverman's op-ed was not approved by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, according to a spokesperson for the Prime Minister.
Braverman's comments caused confusion as the loyalist community in Northern Ireland is better known for holding marches. Prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson wrote on X, formerly Twitter: "Obviously she meant to equate hate marches with IRA terrorist events/commemorations, but the way it has been worded makes it seem the marching band/parading tradition is included."
The BBC has since reported that a source close to Braverman has clarified that the Home Secretary was referring to the activities of dissident republicans. Bryson welcomed this, but still sought clarification from Braverman herself.
Meanwhile, politicians in Northern Ireland have condemned Braverman's comments, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood labeling her a "pound shop Enoch Powell."
@SuellaBraverman is a Pound Shop Enoch Powell. And she can leave us out of it too.— Colum Eastwood 🇺🇦 (@columeastwood) November 8, 2023
In a statement, Eastwood said he has worked with British Home Secretaries who, despite their differences and disagreements, he never doubted that "they were motivated by what they thought was right."
Eastwood said he cannot say the same for Braverman.
“The Home Secretary’s comments in an article in The Times today are so far removed from reality that it is impossible to come to any determination other than she is deliberately stoking division to bolster her own brand among the Conservative Party’s right wing," Eastwood said.
"It’s honestly like reading a pound shop Enoch Powell piece.
“The comments comparing the proposed Armistice Day protests against the appalling bombardment of civilians in Gaza with the marching tradition in Northern Ireland are an exercise in what can only be described as aggressive ignorance. Ignorance of the conditions faced by the civilian population in Gaza, ignorance of the role of the Met police, ignorance of the complex history and traditions of marching and protest in Northern Ireland. She has managed to offend just about everyone - no mean feat in a divided society.
“The comments are far below the standard that should be expected from a senior government Minister. The only appropriate action now is her removal from office but given the systemic weakness of this government, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she remained.”
The aggressive ignorance from the British Home Secretary is astounding.
Ignorance of the conditions facing civilians in Gaza.November 9, 2023
Ignorance of the role of the police.
Ignorance of the complex history & tradition of marching in Northern Ireland.
MP Stephen Farry of Northern Ireland's Alliance Party said Braverman's "comparisons to Northern Ireland are pathetic" and also called for her to be sacked.
Elsewhere, TD Matt Carthy, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, said on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster that Braverman has "as much knowledge about the situation in Northern Ireland as she seems to have about the situation in Palestine at the moment."
Carthy said: "The British government has taken a disappointing stance in my view in respect of the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
"I would argue if British ministers are in the frame of mind where they want to talk about Ireland and the north, the frame of mind they should be in is ensuring the DUP return to Stormont and we get the executive up and running."
The UK Labour Party has also called for Braverman's removal following her op-ed.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, said Braverman should be sacked for accusing the Metropolitan Police of "playing favorites" by allowing Saturday's demonstration to take place.
"Does this Government still believe in the operational independence of the police, and how can it do so while this Home Secretary is in post?" Cooper said in the House of Commons on Thursday.