Karen Bradley has done the impossible, she has united nationalist and unionist opinion in the North – in outrage and embarrassment
Shortly after she took the job of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley admitted she was completely ignorant of its political structures and “slightly scared” of the place.
She did not know, she confessed, that nationalists did not vote for unionist candidates and that unionists did not vote for nationalists, a level of ignorance so complete it could have come from a British colonial governor surveying Burma circa 1910.
At 48, she is almost the same age as the Troubles, so we have to wonder what she was she looking at through all decades of the war in the North? Blue Peter? Top of The Pops? Did she own a television or open a newspaper?
When the threat of the return of a hard border is already enraging nationalist opinion (and many unionists too) Bradley's profound ignorance of the regions history and political fault lines demonstrates that neither she nor the conservative party have any interest in or plan for the North.
Yesterday Bradley made one of the most needlessly inflammatory statements ever uttered by a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Responding to a question from Democratic Unionist Party MP Emma Little-Pengelly, Bradley said that killings at the hands of the British Army and the police during the Troubles were “not crimes.”
“Over 90 percent of the killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists, every single one of those was a crime,” she said.
“The fewer than ten percent that was at the hands of the military and police were not crimes,” Bradley continued.
Rubbing salt into an already raw wound she added: “They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way.”
Tell that to the bereaved families from Derry who saw their relatives massacred on Bloody Sunday. A week from now those surviving relatives will learn – after a 47-year wait - if Public Prosecution Service will permit any prosecutions to go ahead.
Karen Bradley’s comments today were incredibly insensitive a week before the Public Prosecution Service are due to make a decision on Bloody Sunday. Clearly these comments will cause hurt to many victims in Northern Ireland. https://t.co/cVGa7Nkmmy— Brendan Howlin (@BrendanHowlin) March 6, 2019
But first, they had to hear Boris Johnson worry that “politics” would trump “justice” if the British soldiers accused of shooting innocent unarmed civilians dead in Derry were to face prosecution. What signal, he asked, would that send to “our brave armed forces?”
Perhaps the signal it would send is not to massacre innocent, unarmed civilians on a peaceful march?
We mustn't let politics trump justice in this travesty of a Bloody Sunday trial. What signal does it send out to our brave armed forces? https://t.co/vV20RWWWoF— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 3, 2019
Mike Nesbitt, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party was as withering in his assessment of Bradley's competence as nationalist leaders.
“One way or another I have had dealings with the last 13 Secretaries of State for NI. Karen Bradley consistently demonstrates she isn’t up to the job,” he tweeted.
One way or another I have had dealings with the last 13 Secretaries of State for NI. Karen Bradley consistently demonstrates she isn’t up to the job— Mike Nesbitt (@mikenesbittni) March 6, 2019
Colum Eastwood, the SDLP leader said “Karen Bradley is publicly interfering with the rule of law. No-one has the right to deliberately pressure or intervene with due process. She should resign.”
Karen Bradley is publically interfering with the rule of law. No-one has the right to deliberately pressure or intervene with due process. She should resign.— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) March 6, 2019
Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O'Neill spoke to Bradley shortly after her shocking statement in the Commons and told her it was a resignation matter.
“Spoke to Karen Bradley," she tweeted. "Told her in the strongest possible terms that her comments today are beyond unacceptable. Told her it is a resignation matter. However, that does not deal with the issue, as this goes right to the heart of British Government Policy...”
1/2 Spoke to Karen Bradley. Told her in the strongest possible terms that her comments today are beyond unacceptable. Told her it is a resignation matter. However, that does not deal with the issue, as this goes right to the heart of British Government Policy.— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) March 6, 2019
The gravity of Bradley's offense north and south, on the eve of what increasingly looks like a no-deal Brexit, cannot be overstated.
Last night the Irish Deputy prime minister Simon Coveney announced he had met with Bradley to discuss her comments on killings by British soldiers and police officers.
“The position of the Irish Government is clear,” Coveney tweeted.
“There should be effective investigations into all deaths during the Troubles, regardless of the perpetrator.”
At a time when the world is already aghast at the amateur hour level of current political leadership in the UK, Bradley somehow managed to chart a further shore of crass incompetence.
Meanwhile, John Teggart, whose father was brutally killed in the 1971 Ballymurphy shootings, told the press of his shock at her comments.
“What Karen Bradley said is that the soldiers who murdered my father - 14 bullets went through his body, ripped chunks out of his body - that soldier acted in a dignified and appropriate way.”
“For Mrs. Bradley to come out with insulting, despicable insults to families, it's an absolute disgrace,” he said.
He added that he thought she should resign.
What are your thoughts? Should Bradley resign? Let us know in the comments section, below.
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