Irish government seeks explanation for Bradley’s Troubles remarks

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has faced calls from the Irish Government for an explanation after she said deaths caused by soldiers and police during the Troubles were not crimes.

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 8:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 9:25 pm
Mickey McKinney, whose brother William was killed in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday, standing beside the Bloody Sunday Memorial

She later returned to the House of Commons to clarify to MPs that alleged wrongdoing should always be investigated.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney was due to meet Ms Bradley seeking clarification on Wednesday evening.

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.

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“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, prosecutors will announce whether soldiers will face trial for the Bloody Sunday killings of 14 innocent civilians in Londonderry.

Mickey McKinney, whose brother William was shot by a Parachute Regiment soldier, 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?

“For her to come out with ridiculous comments, that is completely outrageous.”

More than 90% of deaths caused during 30 years of violence involved republican or loyalist paramilitaries.

Ms Bradley initially told MPs on Wednesday: “The fewer than 10% 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 House of Commons to make clear her position, 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.

“These are of course matters for the police and prosecuting authorities, who are independent of Government.”

John Kelly’s brother Michael was aged 17 when he was shot dead during the January 1972 Bloody Sunday civil rights march.

Mr Kelly said: “She has to resign, she has no option, she has to go because she cannot be representative now of anybody now in the North.

“The Secretary of State is supposed to be impartial but she showed her true colours today.”

Nationalist SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mrs Bradley was publicly interfering with the rule of law.

He said: “No-one has the right to deliberately pressure or intervene with due process. She should resign.”

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said Ms Bradley had made “outrageous and offensive” comments during her initial appearance in Parliament and later told her it was a “resignation matter”.

Mrs O’Neill said: “British politicians cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over the legal system.

“No-one can be above the law and bereaved families, some of whom have been campaigning for almost five decades, are entitled to access to truth and justice.

“These offensive and hurtful comments should be withdrawn immediately.”

The Northern Ireland Secretary’s words came during oral Northern Ireland-related questions in the House of Commons.

Mrs O’Neill added: “The British Government must immediately clarify their position on legacy.

“They must also honour their obligations agreed at Stormont House in 2014.”

She said the Northern Ireland Secretary had displayed “contempt” for the legal system, including ongoing court proceedings into legacy cases involving the British state and its forces.

“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 added.

Labour’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Tony Lloyd said: “Labour stands on the side of truth and justice, its time the Government decided which side they are on.”