Sunday 20 October 2019

Karen Bradley 'profoundly sorry' for saying killing of innocent people during The Troubles by police 'not crimes'

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Karen Bradley,the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Photo: PA

Kevin Doyle and John Downing

NORTHERN Ireland’s Secretary of State Karen Bradley has apologised for claiming that all deaths at the hands of soldiers during the Troubles were “not crimes”.

Ms Bradley is fighting for her political survival amid a massive backlash, including today in the Dáil.

In her statement today, Ms Bradley said: “I want to apologise. I am profoundly sorry for the offence and hurt that my words have caused. The language was wrong and even though this was not my intention, it was deeply insensitive to many of those who lost loved ones.”

She said that having personally met families affected she understands “just how raw their pain is and I completely understand why they want to see justice properly delivered”.

“I share that aim and that is why I launched the public consultation on addressing the legacy of the troubles.

“My position and the position of this Government is clear. We believe fundamentally in the rule of law. Where there is any evidence of wrongdoing this should be pursued without fear or favour whoever the perpetrators might be.

“That is a principle that underpins our approach to dealing with legacy issues and it is one from which we will not depart.”

She had a “difficult” meeting with Tánaiste Simon Coveney in London last night and is expected to travel to Belfast this evening.

Mr Coveney told the Dáil this afternoon that the Irish government has made it clear to her that there are “no amnesties” provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.

“The Irish government has been clear we will not support any proposal to introduce such a measure for any state or non-state actors,” Mr Coveney said.

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

But Ms Bradley stated yesterday that fewer than 10pc of killings during the Troubles were at the hands of military and police personnel.

“They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way,” she said.

Mr Coveney said the timing of the comments “couldn’t be worse”.

“This is a time of real sensitivity for many victims of violence and terrorism too,” he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said her comments were "insensitive" and "wrong".

When asked if she should resign he said it was not for him to determine the composition of another government.

Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader Dara Calleary said Ms Bradley’s comments “ignored the grief” of people on this island and cannot “go unchecked”.

“Yesterday’s remarks were absolutely callous and completely out of order,” he said, adding that they were “calculated”.

For Sinn Féin, party deputy leader Pearse Doherty said Ms Bradley’s remarks were utterly unacceptable from the UK Minister deemed responsible for Northern Ireland. “It was an outrageous and ridiculous statement,” Mr Doherty said.

The Sinn Féin TD said the remarks “were not out of the blue” and followed a pledge by UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to bring in legislation protecting serving UK security members from prosecution for such incidents.

Mr Doherty said the UK government was refusing to implement the so-called Stormont House agreement on the injustices perpetrated by the UK security forces. He added that there were important unresolved issues about security forces’ collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries in committing crimes.

The Tánaiste said he had a long meeting with Ms Bradley on Wednesday evening. He asked her to publicly state her government’s support for all agreements on the North and a public commitment that there can be no amnesty for past crimes.

“I think she accepted all those things and I understand there is a strong attempt by the Secretary of State to do those things,” Mr Coveney said.

Mr Doherty said Ms Bradley’s comments did not state her government’s commitment to implement the Stormont House agreement on dealing with past injustices. He added that Ms Bradley had said “the language was wrong” but that was not sufficient – the real question was one of intent.

Mr Coveney said he believed Ms Bradley was “a good person” who had made a mistake which she now acknowledged.

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