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Karen Bradley admits she couldn't fathom Northern Ireland voters

By Michael McHugh

The Northern Ireland Secretary has said she did not understand why nationalists here do not vote for unionists and vice versa when she originally started the job.

Karen Bradley was appointed earlier this year and admitted at the time she did not comprehend that campaigns are generally fought within each part of the community rather than across it, as in her own parliamentary constituency.

She also said she did not fathom some of the deep-rooted issues which define Northern Irish politics.

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."

Ms Bradley was appointed in January after her predecessor James Brokenshire - now Secretary of State for Communities - stepped aside for medical reasons.

She continued: "That's a very different world from the world I came from, where in Staffordshire Moorlands I was fighting a Labour-held seat as a Conservative politician and I was trying to put forward why you would want to switch from voting Labour to voting Conservative.

"That is so incredibly different and it's when you realise that, and you see that, that you can then start to understand some of the things that the politicians say and some of the rhetoric."

She was speaking in an interview with the weekly magazine for the Houses of Parliament.

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