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New NIO minister 'survived two murder bids at hands of the IRA'

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 18/07/2016

Prime Minister Theresa May with NIO junior minister Kris Hopkins
Prime Minister Theresa May with NIO junior minister Kris Hopkins

A former soldier turned government minister has described how he escaped two IRA murder bids during the Troubles.

Kris Hopkins (53) has been appointed a junior minister at the Northern Ireland Office.

In his Army days, he survived an IRA gun attack in Belfast and a mortar attack in Co Armagh.

Mr Hopkins previously spoke of his "revulsion" at Martin McGuinness - but said he backed the peace process. He wrote about his experiences in Northern Ireland in a 2010 article for the Yorkshire Post.

"The IRA tried to shoot me on the New Lodge Road, and tried to blow me up in a 16-round mortar attack in Bessbrook," he previously wrote.

Mr Hopkins said those attacks "fossilised" his view of the IRA.

But he has supported devolution, saying he watched politicians arguing over issues like water rates thinking "how great it was that they were not trying to kill each other".

Mr Hopkins' article in November 2010 came four months after David Cameron apologised on behalf of the State for the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry.

Mr Hopkins said that at the time of the report's publication "it was difficult for me, as an ex-soldier, to hear the words that were said and their context". However, he said he supported Mr Cameron's apology. Mr Hopkins also wrote about how he viewed Mr McGuinness's journey from paramilitary to politician.

"I was at a meeting at the Tory Party conference recently [in 2010] with Sinn Fein's deputy leader Martin McGuinness.

"I have to tell you of the absolute revulsion and anger that I felt when he walked into the room. So, it is great for you politicians to do it, but for me, that moment involved a huge journey and a massive leap," he said.

"But as he spieled his spiel, and as the media and the Secretary of State challenged him, I realised that that was the place where we needed to be."

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