Karen Bradley facing resignation calls, but former Army chief says apology would suffice
Karen Bradley has faced calls to resign after she claimed that no one killed by the security forces was the victim of a crime.
The NI secretary faced a fierce backlash after her address in the Commons yesterday.
She said that while all of the deaths caused by terrorists were illegal, “the fewer than 10% that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes”.
Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, has said Mrs Bradley should consider apologising for the comments, but insisted she should not have to resign.
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster radio show, the former Green Howards officer, who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, said: “I think it would not be unreasonable for her to offer an apology.
“I think it’s unnecessary for her to resign, there’s enough confusion in our political world at the present moment.”
During her Commons speech, Mrs Bradley went on to say: “They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way.”
The secretary of state was responding to a question from DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly, who had asked Mrs Bradley when she was going to establish a mechanism to probe the large number of unsolved murders and injuries as a result of terrorist acts.
Mrs Bradley later returned to the Commons chamber to clarify her remarks she conceded “might have been open to misinterpretation”.
She told MPs: “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.”
She added: “These are of course matters for the police and prosecuting authorities who are independent of government.”
Her initial remarks were branded “indefensible” by a number of commentators who pointed out they come at a time when a number of fatal incidents involving the security forces are being investigated and brought before the courts.
John Finucane, the son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane, posted his reaction on Twitter.
He said: “Legally, politically and morally these comments are indefensible, yet is it really surprising to hear a SoS publicly express the contempt we know the British govt had for lives here?”
The Relatives 4 Justice group tweeted: “The Secretary of State comments this morning coming a week before the PPS decision on Bloody Sunday soldiers is blatant political interference in due process.”
Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said Ms Bradley had made “outrageous and offensive” comments in Parliament.
Ms O’Neill said: “British politicians cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over the legal system.”
Ms O’Neill’s party colleague Michelle Gildernew said Mrs Bradley’s position as NI secretary was now “untenable”.
Alliance leader Naomi Long said Mrs Bradley’s statement was “clear and wrong” and was “not open to misinterpretation”.
Mrs Long tweeted: “She should withdraw, not clarify, her remarks and apologise to families, many of whom still await full investigation and due process in respect of their loved ones’ deaths.”
The SDLP’s Colum Eastwood accused Mrs Bradley of “publicly interfering with the rule of law,” and added: “No one has the right to deliberately pressure or intervene with due process. She should resign.”
Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International said Mrs Bradley should apologise.
“Not only are they wholly undermining of the rule of law and due process but they are also extremely offensive to anyone who lost loved ones at the hands of the state and still await justice,” Ms Teggart said.
However, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Mrs Bradley’s comments do “not change the fact that 90% of killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorism”.
Mr Donaldson said “no one should be above the law,” and that all innocent victims deserve justice, but added: “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.”
Mr Donaldson went on to say: “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.”