Belfast Telegraph

Bradley has confidence of PM despite admitting she 'knew little' about NI

By Sam Lister

The Prime Minister retains confidence in Karen Bradley despite her admission that she initially did not understand Northern Ireland politics when she took on the Cabinet brief, a spokeswoman for No 10 has said.

The Northern Ireland Secretary revealed in an interview published earlier this week that she at first did not realise that nationalists did not vote for unionist parties and vice-versa during elections.

Ms Bradley, who was appointed earlier this year, also said she did not fathom some of the deep-rooted issues that define Northern Irish politics.

Downing Street refused to be drawn on the criteria used by Prime Minister Theresa May when appointing ministers.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: "The Northern Ireland Secretary is working incredibly hard to restore devolved government to Northern Ireland."

Asked if the PM remained confident that Ms Bradley was able to do the job, the spokeswoman replied: "Yes, she is working very closely with the parties there."

Asked how voters in Northern Ireland could have confidence in Ms Bradley, the spokeswoman replied: "I would point to all of the work that she is doing to restore devolved government to Northern Ireland."

The Irish government also moved to defend Mrs Bradley yesterday, saying she is a smart and experienced politician.

The Republic's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said: "She's someone who has really made an effort to understand Northern Ireland.

"She didn't have a lot of experience of Northern Ireland before being appointed there but she's an experienced, very smart politician and I'm going to work closely with her to help the parties in Northern Ireland to work with each other in a way that's good for people in Northern Ireland.

"Whether you're a unionist or a nationalist, having no devolved government structures, having no capacity to make political decisions in Northern Ireland is bad for everybody, both communities. Karen Bradley recognises that, so do I."

But Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir said Ms Bradley's comments were a "sorry reminder" of where the country was on the priority list of the UK Government.

He added: "We have gone beyond being shocked by the British Government's ignorance of affairs here and their disregard for the rights of people here but there is no way they would appoint a Chancellor of the Exchequer who could not count or did not know how to read a P and L (profit and loss statement).

"When it comes to appointing their representative in Belfast, the only requirement was that that person would take the orders of Theresa May, who of course is taking her orders from the DUP."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said there were wider concerns around Mrs Bradley.

"I'm not particularly worried about Karen Bradley's lack of knowledge about here before she was appointed Secretary of State," he said.

"I'm very concerned about her lack of action since she arrived."

Jenny Chapman, Labour's Shadow Brexit Minister said: 'This is embarrassing from the Northern Ireland Secretary."

Ms Bradley was appointed in January after her predecessor James Brokenshire stepped aside for medical reasons.

She told The House magazine: "I didn't understand things like when elections are fought for example in Northern Ireland - people who are nationalists don't vote for unionist parties and vice-versa.

"So, the parties fight for election within their own community.

"Actually, the unionist parties fight the elections against each other in unionist communities and nationalists in nationalist communities."

Belfast Telegraph

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