Karen Bradley’s hopeless handling of Northern Ireland makes Grayling look competent – she should resign now

Her comments come as families await a decision next week on whether paratroopers who shot dead 14 protesters on Bloody Sunday will face prosecution

Ben Kelly
Wednesday 06 March 2019 20:05 GMT
Karen Bradley says killings committed by security forces were 'not crimes'

Karen Bradley has done it again.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has caused anger after telling the House of Commons that killings carried out by the security forces during the Troubles “were not crimes.”

Referring to the British Army and RUC members, some of whom killed innocent civilians, Bradley said, “They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way.”

Bradley has faced fierce criticism from nationalists in Northern Ireland, and much of the Dublin media. Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said the comments were “an insult to families who have lost loved ones”, while SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has led calls for her resignation. Even the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson said, “no one should be above the law and all innocent victims deserve justice.”

Her comments are particularly inflammatory as many families await a decision next week on whether or not paratroopers who shot dead 14 innocent civil rights protesters in Derry on Bloody Sunday will face prosecution. In 2010, following the release of the Saville Report, David Cameron said the behaviour of British soldiers on that day in January 1972 had been “unjustified and unjustifiable.”

Now it seems the Secretary of State might need reminding of this, and indeed she may need reminding that neither the government nor the armed forces are above the law. In a later clarification, she was forced to backtrack, saying that “where there is evidence of wrongdoing it should always be investigated whoever is responsible.”

But none of this will come as a surprise to anyone who follows Bradley’s bumbling ministerial career. Her greatest hit of course was her revelation that upon taking the Northern Ireland portfolio, she didn’t understand the political divides which exist there. Last September, Bradley said she didn’t know that “people who are nationalists don't vote for unionist parties and vice-versa.”

It has hardly been a surprise then that during her tenure, the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland has not been re-established. For 26 months, MLAs have not been sitting at Stormont, and yet Bradley has not taken back direct rule to Westminster. Instead, she leaves Northern Ireland – the frontline in the fast approaching disaster of Brexit – suspended in limbo.

Presumably she is still getting to the bottom of why Sinn Fein and the DUP just don’t get along.

This week, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has been under fierce criticism for his shameless incompetence as a government minister. After the government were forced to pay out £33 million for his botched no-deal ferry contract, critics also drew attention to his part privatisation of the probation service which cost the taxpayer an extra £427m. Labour claim he has left a “trail of destruction” across various departments.

But now, he must be breathing a quiet sigh of relief, as Karen Bradley makes a bid for Most Hopeless Minister. Together, they are indicative of a worrying level of incapability which is apparently acceptable in the current political climate. It appears that any sliver of loyalty to the prime minister, and a somewhat masochistic tolerance for public humiliation are all that are required to keep a job in the current administration.

The people of Northern Ireland are currently being failed on many fronts - not least by the inability of Sinn Fein and the DUP to deliver a functioning government at Stormont. But while that vacuum persists, Westminster has responsibilities, and to leave those responsibilities in the hands of a woman so clearly out of her depth is an insult.

It is now time for Karen Bradley to resign as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and pass on this portfolio to someone who fully understands our complex history and our unique political situation – if such an individual can even be found in Theresa May’s clueless cabinet.

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