Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland politics 'a different world from where I came from,' Secretary of State admits

By Jonathan Bell

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has admitted she knew little of the politics of Northern Ireland before taking the job in January.

In a wide-ranging interview with The House - Parliament's magazine, she talks candidly about how little she knew of voting habits in Northern Ireland.

From Buxton and having worked in the city of London, she talks about how she was told never to discuss politics, religion, or football with patrons at her parents' bar.

During her tenure at Hillsborough Castle she has often been criticised for her apparent hands-off approach as Northern Ireland enters its 20th month without a devolved government.

On Thursday she finally took measures in regard to MLAs pay after an NIO commissioned report recommended their reduction and steps to allow civil servants to make decisions.

Asked if taking over from James Brokenshire in January after her predecessor was forced to resign over ill health, she said: "I don’t know. There’s been a challenge in everything that I’ve done. There are certainly intractable challenges sometimes it feels in Northern Ireland and there’s a lot to understand about Northern Ireland.

"I freely admit that when I started this job, I didn’t understand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted issues that there are in Northern Ireland.

“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 the election within their own community. Actually, the unionist parties fight the elections against each other in unionist communities and nationalists in nationalist communities.

"That’s a very different world from the world I came from.”

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