Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley promises to rebuild bridges with furious victims but rejects resignation calls

Karen Bradley
Karen Bradley
Colum Eastwood
Sammy Wilson
Nuala O'Loan

By Suzanne Breen

The Secretary of State has said she is not resigning over her controversial comments on security force killings - but has pledged to rebuild trust with outraged victims.

Karen Bradley apologised for her words, which she said were factually wrong and did not reflect what she believed, but the SDLP insisted she must resign and said saying sorry could never make up for the hurt caused.

Former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O'Loan also called on the Secretary of State to go. She has asked the Prime Minister to sack Mrs Bradley if she would not resign.

But a Downing Street spokeswoman said Theresa May had full confidence in her minister.

Sinn Fein said Mrs Bradley's apology rang hollow, given the Government's record on legacy.

And the families of victims of the 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre, whose inquests are currently being heard, said they would not meet her.

They said they had been requesting a meeting with Mrs Bradley since she took up her position as Secretary of State but Mrs Bradley "hasn't even replied to these requests".

"Tonight we find that she would like to meet us tomorrow to apologize 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," a spokesman for the families said.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said Mrs Bradley must account for her words, stressing he believed all lives were equal under the law and saying security forces should be investigated when they shoot somebody.

On Wednesday, Mrs Bradley told the House of Commons that security force killings were "not crimes" but were carried out by "people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way". She later clarified her remarks and apologised.

She said: "I was wrong. It was factually wrong. It's not what I believe. It was a heat-of-the-moment slip of the tongue. Whatever you want to call it, there is no excuse for it.

"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. What I want to do is deliver for them and I am absolutely determined I will do."

Mrs Bradley said she realised the added significance of her error, given that it came a week before prosecutorial decisions are due to be announced on the soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday.

"I recognise that a slip of the tongue at the wrong moment has caused enormous distress," she admitted. "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."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said "no apology will ever be good enough to make up for the hurt" caused by the Secretary of State's "insensitive and ignorant" remarks.

"I have made it very clear to Karen Bradley that she must tender her resignation," he said. "Her remarks have struck a blow to the confidence of people here who rely on her to be an honest broker for Northern Ireland."

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said Mrs Bradley had zero credibility with victims' families and the nationalist community.

Her apology rang hollow "when it was based on her Government's commitment to establishing the Stormont House legacy bodies", he added.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson, meanwhile, said the "siren hysterical clamour from all the usual suspects" following Mrs Bradley's remarks was predictable. "Sinn Fein's calls for resignation are blatant hypocrisy. This from a party who have MPs, MLAs and councillors who actually eulogised the actions of the PIRA in murdering innocent civilians," he said.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the Secretary of State must show "actions, not just words" to restore confidence in her.

Meanwhile, justice campaigner Eamonn McCann has said he knows some soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday will face prosecutions, even though prosecutors will not reveal their decision until next week. He told BBC's Nolan Live show: "There is going to be prosecutions announced on the 14th (of this month)."

When it was pointed out that no one outside the investigation knows if this is the case, Mr McCann replied: "Well, I actually do. I do, I can assure you."

Belfast Telegraph

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