Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Would Bradley remain in job if she was talking of Birmingham deaths?

Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

As apologies go, it wasn't half-hearted. Karen Bradley offered a complete and sweeping 'sorry' for her comments on security force killings.

But given the gravity of her original remarks, the question remains whether words are enough to put right the wrong.

If she had said the same about controversial killings in Britain, would she still be in a job? Damn sure she wouldn't.

The Secretary of State was speaking as the inquest continues into the killing of 11 civilians by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy in 1971.

Prosecutors are also set to announce their decision next week on the prosecution of soldiers involved in the deaths of 14 innocents in the Bogside.

If these events had taken place in Birmingham and Liverpool, not Belfast and Londonderry, Karen Bradley would have been out on her ear within an hour of making her offensive statement. It was deeply alarming that there was no automatic, immediate reaction - even on the Opposition benches - in the House of Commons when she said that security force killings were never crimes.

Should Karen Bradley resign following her comments on security force killings in Northern Ireland?

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, March 7, 2019

Had she suggested that police officers who had shot dead English women, children and male civilians had been "fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way", there would have been instantaneous uproar in the chamber.

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"I was wrong. It was factually wrong. It's not what I believe," the Secretary of State said yesterday.

"It was a heat-of-the moment slip of the tongue. Whatever you want to call it, there is no excuse for it.

"I shouldn't have said it and I want to say sorry to all those people, all those families, that have been kind enough to share their experiences with me."

Anybody can misspeak and the words from the Secretary of State sounded heartfelt. But the problem is that they occurred against a backdrop of a government which has shown a callous disregard for victims right across the spectrum.

If Mrs Bradley was part of an administration which had genuinely tried to address legacy issues, it would be different. Instead, it has dragged its feet and furthered the distress of those injured and bereaved in the Troubles.

In her 'mea culpa' interview round last night, the Secretary of State pledged to do everything possible to rebuild trust with victims.

Her advisers will have to come up with something very significant to even begin to do that.

When Mrs Bradley landed the job 14 months ago, she knew next to nothing about Northern Ireland. It is clear that she hasn't been on a steep learning curve. Do we not deserve better?

Belfast Telegraph


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