Saturday 19 October 2019

Killing of innocent civilians by police during Troubles 'not crimes' - Karen Bradley

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Kevin Doyle, Michael McHugh and Rebecca Black

Victims' families have called for the UK's Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to resign after she said deaths at the hands of soldiers and police during the Troubles were "not crimes".

Her comments in the House of Commons sparked anger and accusations that she was interfering with the rule of law.

Next week, prosecutors in the UK will announce whether British soldiers will face trial for the Bloody Sunday killings of 14 innocent civilians in Derry.

Ms Bradley later backtracked and returned to the Commons to say alleged wrongdoing by all should always be investigated.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney met with Ms Bradley last night for a “detailed discussion” on the controversy at the Irish Embassy in London last night.

His office said they talked about “the importance of full and impartial investigations into all deaths during the troubles and the importance of both governments’ standing firm on that principle”.

According to the Tánaiste both reaffirmed their commitment to the legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement.

“The Tánaiste made very clear that the Irish Government would not support any proposal to introduce an amnesty for any party,” the spokesman said.

Mickey McKinney, whose brother William was killed on Bloody Sunday, said: "It's very hurtful.

"She should resign right away. Is she not aware that there was an inquiry that found our people completely innocent? Was she not aware of David Cameron's apology to the people for the behaviour of the army?"

John Kelly's brother Michael was 17 when he was shot dead during the January 1972 civil rights march.

Mr Kelly told BBC Radio Ulster: "I don't believe she can represent the nationalist people of the North or anyone who lost their lives at the hands of the British army. I believe she should resign."

She claimed that more than 90pc of deaths caused during 30 years of the Troubles involved republican or loyalist paramilitaries.

Ms Bradley initially told MPs: "The fewer than 10pc that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes.

"They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way."

She later returned to the Commons, saying: "The point I was seeking to convey was that the overwhelming majority of those who served carried out their duties with courage, professionalism and integrity and within the law.

"I was not referring to any specific cases but expressing a general view.

"Of course where there is evidence of wrongdoing, it should always be investigated - whoever is responsible."

When asked on Wednesday evening if she would like to apologise for her comments, Ms Bradley told the Press Association: "Coming back to the House of Commons and correcting the record is the biggest statement I can make in terms of the inadvertent comments that I made during oral questions.

"I was absolutely determined to be clear to everybody that what I had said needed correcting and to do so on the floor of the House of Commons is the biggest statement I can make."

She said she did not intend to cause "any offence or upset to anybody", adding: "I am determined that we will find a way to deal with the issue of the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland as soon as possible and in a way that is right and fair for victims and everyone."

Pressed on whether she would say sorry to people she upset, Ms Bradley, who was at a St Patrick's Day event at the Embassy of Ireland in London, said: "As I say, I never intend to cause any offence. I want to ensure that we have a system that works for everyone."

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, who was also at the event at the Embassy of Ireland, met with Ms Bradley to seek clarification.

A spokesman said: "Secretary of State Bradley's reaffirmation this afternoon that 'where there is evidence of wrongdoing, it should always be investigated - whoever is responsible' is important.

"There are no amnesties from prosecution provided for in the Good Friday Agreement or any subsequent agreements including the Stormont House Agreement.

"The Irish Government has been clear that it would not support any proposal to introduce such a measure, for state or non-state actors."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said she was publicly interfering with the rule of law. "No one has the right to deliberately pressure or intervene with due process," he said, adding: "She should resign."

Irish Independent

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