Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Bradley widely held in contempt, but blame goes beyond her

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Under the shadow of Sir Edward Carson's statue, the survivors of institutional child abuse fought back tears after yet another useless meeting at Stormont.

Failed so cruelly by the state as little children, and time and time again in the intervening decades, yesterday was just the latest instalment of those in high places letting them down.

Jon McCourt's voice shook with emotion as he explained to the media how many victims just didn't have the time that the Secretary of State said it would take to pass legislation through Parliament.

The request for an interim payment for victims well advanced in years, or terminally ill, was refused.

Who could dispute Jon's description of the Government's stance as heartless?

"I went in to meet Karen Bradley with expectations, I came out totally deflated," said Gerry McCann.

"This is now beyond a joke. We have the most senior minister here in Northern Ireland who cannot take decisive action."

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He felt "denigrated", he said. Marty Adams was even blunter. He told Mrs Bradley that when her boss Theresa May leaves office, the Secretary of State should make sure she goes too.

The victims made it clear yesterday that they are sick, sore and tired of meetings that involve kind words, hugs and handshakes. Two-and-a-half years after Sir Anthony Hart's report, they want action.

Rarely are the political parties united in anything these days. But the contempt in which Mrs Bradley is held crosses the political spectrum.

Sinn Fein and the DUP haven't hid their opinion of her in recent months. Yesterday, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said the Secretary of State seemed "determined to make an absolute hames" of taking forward legislation to help victims. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused her of "disgraceful behaviour".

Mrs Bradley is a busted flush. It seems inconceivable that a new Tory Prime Minister will keep her in the job. But the blame goes beyond her personally as key Government advisers are evidently central to the decision-making process.

The victims will protest at the Secretary of State's garden party today. Never will there have been a more powerful image of the vulnerable and ill-treated speaking truth to power.

Belfast Telegraph


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