Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Forgive Bradley and look towards future

Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Secretary of State Karen Bradley

Editor's Viewpoint

There has been a huge furore over the recent unfortunate statements by Secretary of State Karen Bradley that deaths caused by security forces during the Troubles were not criminal acts.

The cries for her resignation continue to come from many quarters, but Mrs Bradley quickly realised the magnitude of her gaffe and offered an apology, underlining that she was "profoundly sorry" for the hurt she had caused.

Calls for her resignation, as we have pointed out before, were always wrong-headed and without merit.

Such calls sound most dramatic, but in the real world of the complex political maze we are all in, it is better to note and park Ms Bradley's apology and insist that she redouble her efforts to forge agreement between Northern Ireland's parties and roll out the legacy issues that remain in her gift as Secretary of State.

The harsh reality is that political resignations can be over-rated. Amber Rudd, for example, resigned over the Windrush scandal but was back in Cabinet just seven months later.

There have been some regrettable personal elements to some of the otherwise valid criticism of Mrs Bradley's comments. We would not go so far as to say that all these criticisms were motivated by misogyny, but we wonder today - on International Women's Day - whether a male Secretary of State would have been subjected to the same vitriolic remarks.

It may be difficult for some to accept that in this hot-house of politics we tend to over-rate the freedom of the Secretary of State to act independently, perhaps even with the connivance of the politicians.

Whether people like it or not, the Secretary of State's role is to be the Prime Minister's eyes and ears in Northern Ireland.

The idea that the Secretary of State has the freedom and ability to set policy without the agreement of Cabinet colleagues is laughable.

We live in very difficult times and Ms Bradley should stay in post, if only on the theory of 'better the devil you know'.

Her detractors should try and take a vow of silence, though this may be wishful thinking in a province where people on all sides are far too ready to give their opinions.

Karen Bradley has given her apology and should now commit herself totally to breaking the political logjam at Stormont with the kind of enthusiasm she appears to have been lacking in the past.

Belfast Telegraph

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