Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Secretary of State convincing absolutely no one that she is up to the job

Karen Bradley is under fire again
Karen Bradley is under fire again
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

It's been an awful week for Karen Bradley. The Secretary of State was lambasted by the victims of institutional child abuse on Monday, who then picketed her royal garden party.

Yesterday she was in the firing line for her handling of the contaminated blood scandal.

Speaking after meeting Mrs Bradley at Stormont, the victims of institutional abuse accused her of engaging in emotional blackmail.

They claimed she was not fast-tracking legislation at Westminster that would hasten their compensation payments while insisting that a redress scheme could be up and running within six weeks if power-sharing was restored.

Yesterday an anonymous haemophiliac who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated products gave evidence to the infected blood inquiry.

'Mr I' shared a letter with the panel that he had received from the Secretary of State. Mrs Bradley said she empathised with victims and was "keeping a close eye" on developments.

"It is only right that those whose lives have been blighted should receive the care and assistance they need," she said.

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"Of course, the best means of supporting victims in Northern Ireland is via a functioning Assembly in which locally elected ministers can speak up and act on their behalf.

"That is why securing a successful outcome to the talks process is my absolute priority."

Just like the institutional child abuse victims, Mr I claimed that the Secretary of State was letting down through inaction those most in need of help here. He said she was using the issue as a way of forcing local politicians to strike a deal to restore the Assembly and Executive.

"It's just being stalled again, it will be held back and used as a political football to try and get politicians with no relevance to this inquiry back around the table," he said.

"I don't think Stormont has got anything to do with this.

"I think the fact the scheme was already in place, it would just take a civil servant or herself to sign a page to say 'uplift it to mirror England'."

Regardless of the moral implications of Mrs Bradley's approach, there is no evidence that it is working in terms of encouraging the DUP and Sinn Fein to do business quickly.

Sources close to the talks don't predict any rapid movement after votes are counted in the EU poll on Monday.

It was revealed yesterday the Secretary of State is facing renewed legal action over the failure to introduce compensation for survivors of historical abuse. Mrs Bradley has strongly defended her position and insisted that ensuring victims get redress is a top political priority for her.

But the public, and local parties, remain unconvinced.

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