Tanaiste to seek clarification from Bradley over comments on security force killings during the Troubles 'not crimes'
Karen Bradley has attempted to clarify her statement that security forces killings during the Troubles were "not crimes" amid calls for her to resign.
The Northern Ireland Secretary of State faced a huge backlash when she told the Commons such killings were by those "fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way".
The remarks were branded "outrageous and offensive" and Mrs Bradley faced calls to resign from SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
She later moved to clarify her statement, stating it "might have been open to interpretation".
"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," she said.
Mrs Bradley said she was not referring to any specific cases, but expressing a "general view".
"Of course wherever there is evidence of wrongdoing it should always be investigated, whoever is responsible," she said.
"These are matters for the policing and prosecuting authorities, who are independent of government."
Tánaiste Simon Coveney is to meet with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Bradley in London tonight and will seek a clarification of her claim security forces killings during the Troubles were "not crimes”.
A spokesman said the Irish government has a very clear position that “effective investigations into all deaths during the Troubles, regardless of the perpetrator”.
“That is what is provided for in the legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement and it is imperative we move forward with its implementation.
“In this regard, Secretary of State Bradley’s reaffirmation this afternoon that ‘where there is evidence of wrong-doing it should always be investigated whoever is responsible’ is important,” he said.
“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.”
Next week, the Public Prosecution Service will announce whether soldiers will be prosecuted over the killings on Bloody Sunday.
Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said Mrs Bradley's earlier comments were "outrageous and offensive" and should be withdrawn.
"These comments are an insult to families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the British army, state agencies and their proxies in the loyalist death squads which were directed by the British state," she said.
Alliance leader Naomi Long said Mrs Bradley's earlier comments interfere with ongoing legacy cases going through the courts.
“Karen Bradley needs to realise the statement she made is not just appalling and deeply hurtful to families of those killed by the security services, many of whom are still waiting for an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones, but they have also undermined due process and the rule of law," she said.
“We cannot have a situation where the Secretary of State – or indeed any politician – takes it upon themselves to decide whether a killing was a crime or not. That is a matter for the courts to decide based on a thorough investigation of the circumstances and a trial.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood 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."
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “There is a need to have mechanisms in place to investigate murders carried out by terrorists during the Troubles. We have been involved in discussions with the Government to support our veterans, against the witch hunts against them. However no one should be above the law and all innocent victims deserve justice.
"Karen Bradley’s comments today do not change the fact with 90% killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorism. For families they wake up each day with no comfort of justice and with the pain of losing their loved one in cruel and brutal circumstances.
"Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, has described Karen Bradley’s comments ‘hurtful’.
"Sinn Fein need to face up to the reality that they have denied IRA involvement in murders and continue to glorify terrorism.
"If there is to be justice it should not be one-sided. Republicans must come forward with the information they have on the murder of innocent people. Sinn Fein’s actions and comments have been nothing but disgraceful towards innocent victims, as they celebrate those who perpetrated heinous violence in Northern Ireland.”