Karen Bradley: ‘I am determined to prove myself by delivering for the people of Northern Ireland’
Karen Bradley has pledged to rebuild the trust of victims hurt by her comments on state killings in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Secretary made clear she would not be resigning over the gaffe, vowing to work to deliver for people she had offended.
“I want to get on and get this job done,” she said.
Downing Street has said Prime Minister Theresa May retains full confidence in her.
Ms Bradley has faced calls to quit - from victims of state violence and several political parties in Northern Ireland - following remarks in the House of Commons on Wednesday when she said killings carried out by the police and military during the Troubles were not crimes, rather actions of people “fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”.
The Secretary of State’s remarks carried added significance as they were made a week before long-awaited decisions from Northern Ireland prosecutors on whether 17 soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry in 1972 will face prosecution.
She returned to the Commons on Wednesday afternoon in a bid to clarify the comments and, on Thursday afternoon, issued a statement of apology, saying she was “profoundly sorry”.
In an interview with the Press Association in Belfast on Thursday evening, Mrs Bradley said there were “no excuses” for what she said.
She also rejected the suggestion she was out of her depth in the role.
“I am determined to prove myself by delivering for the people of Northern Ireland,” she said.
“It is an enormous honour to be Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, it’s an enormous honour to serve the people of Northern Ireland and Government, and it is something I really want to deliver on.”
Mrs Bradley added: “I shouldn’t have said it and I want to say sorry to all those people, all those families that have been kind enough to share their experiences with me.
“I want to say sorry to them because I didn’t want to cause hurt or pain or distress to them in any way, and what I want to do is deliver for them, and I am absolutely determined I will do.
“I recognise that a slip of the tongue at the wrong moment has caused enormous distress.
“I want to be very clear - I do not believe what I said, that is not my view.
“I believe that where crimes have happened, no matter who the perpetrator, they should be properly investigated by an independent authority and they should be prosecuted.
“There is no excuse for anybody where a crime has been committed.”
Responding to victims’ calls for her to quit, Mrs Bradley said: “I want to work to rebuild their trust. I said something I shouldn’t have done. I will apologise and continue to apologise.
“I want to rebuild their trust by delivering for them, delivering a new legacy system that they can have confidence in, delivering something that works for everybody in Northern Ireland and allows Northern Ireland to try and heal some of those very deep wounds.”
Mrs Bradley said she would meet victims in a bid to reassure them of her intent to deliver on stalled mechanisms to address the legacy of Northern Ireland’s toxic past.
She said she also wanted to work to regain the trust of parties such as Sinn Fein and the SDLP, which have both called for her resignation.
“I want to work to regain that trust,” she said.
“I said something I shouldn’t have said. I said something in the heat of the moment for which there is no excuse, in a pressurised situation, which is not what I believe and is factually incorrect.”
She added: “We are all fallible, we all do things that we regret with hindsight. I deeply regret what I said yesterday. I deeply regret the hurt that has been caused, I deeply regret and say sorry to anybody who is suffering as a result of comments that I made.”
Asked if her comments had potentially prejudiced the Bloody Sunday probe or other investigations into state killings, she said: “In terms of next week, I go back to what the prime minister at the time David Cameron said in his statement on June 2010, that it was unjustifiable and cannot be justified, and it is quite right that there have been independent bodies and independent judiciary and independent prosecuting authorities looking at those matters, and those are matters for those independent bodies and I want to make no comment on those as Secretary of State because it is quite right that the judiciary and the prosecuting services are entirely independent.”
Families bereaved in shootings involving the British Army in Ballymurphy in Belfast in 1971 branded Mrs Bradley’s apology too little, too late.
Briege Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was one of those shot dead, said: “I think she is a disgrace.
“She should hang her head in shame and leave.”
John Teggart, whose father Danny was shot 14 times, said Mrs Bradley had caused “deep hurt”.
“Her apology is too little, too late,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ballymurphy families have rejected the offer of a meeting with Mrs Bradley.
In a statement, they said: “Ballymurphy massacre families have been requesting a meeting with the secretary of state since she took up her position of secretary of state for Northern Ireland.
“Karen Bradley hasn’t even replied to these requests.
“Tonight we find that she would like to meet us tomorrow to apologise for the hurt she has caused.
“We will not meet her and have one request for Mrs Bradley and that is for her to resign immediately.
“Families request that those parties who support our campaign join us and refuse to meet with Karen Bradley. Do the Dignified and appropriate thing - resign Karen Bradley.”