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Sunday Life

Revealed: Karen Bradley's £8k freebies - Northern Ireland Secretary of State's gifts


NI Secretary of State Karen Bradley
NI Secretary of State Karen Bradley

By Christopher Woodhouse

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has enjoyed nearly £8,000 worth of freebie trips to Premier League matches, the FA Cup final and a theme park, Sunday Life can reveal.

The gifts from the likes of her favourite team Manchester City, Arsenal and the famous Alton Towers were given to the Tory MP over the last 10 months.

Before taking the reins at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in January, Mrs Bradley was the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Former accountant Mrs Bradley, who earns a combined salary of over £140,000, declared the gifts on the House of Commons register of members' financial interests.

In February, she accepted three tickets and hospitality from the Football League to attend the League Cup final, now called the Carabao Cup, worth £486.

The final took place 11 days after talks between the Stormont parties aimed at getting the Assembly up and running again collapsed and would not resume until September.

Mrs Bradley, a Manchester City fan, was among the 85,671 spectators who watched her side beat Arsenal 3-0, to clinch the club's fifth league cup title.

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On March 1, Arsenal gave her three tickets and hospitality worth £600 for a match at their Emirates home ground.

Nine days later, Burton Albion gave her four tickets plus hospitality for a match valued at £360 on March 10.

On that date the club drew 0-0 with Bristol City at Burton's home ground, the Pirelli Stadium.

Manchester City gifted Mrs Bradley tickets and hospitality from the club worth £2,400, dated April 7.

The club played Liverpool in the quarter-final of the Champions League but Mrs Bradley's side came up short, crashing out of the tournament 5-1 on aggregate.

In May, the Football ­Association gave her six free tickets for the FA Cup final at Wembley worth £690.

Mrs Bradley was one of the 87,647 in attendance who saw Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0.

Stars who attended the match included Countdown's Rachel Riley, Downton Abbey actor Hugh Bonneville and ex-Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson.

Aside from freebie footie tickets, she was also given two tickets and hospitality for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July valued at £1,116.

That same month she gave an interview to The Irish News in which she said she spends everyday thinking about how to break the Stormont deadlock.

Mrs Bradley had another free day trip in August courtesy of Alton Towers, which gave her three tickets and fast track passes to the theme park worth £465.

The theme park, near the village of Alton in Staffordshire, is in Mrs Bradley's constituency of Staffordshire Moorlands.

The following month she got four free tickets to London radio station Capital FM's Summertime Ball, worth £1,000.

Over 80,000 guests at the star-studded bash at Wembley Stadium were entertained by top acts like Rita Ora (left), Jess Glynne, Clean Bandit and Charlie Puth.

It was that same month she told the House of Commons' House magazine that when she took over at the NIO, she was ignorant of some of the most basic facts of political life here.

"I freely admit that when I started this job, I didn't understand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted issues that there are in Northern Ireland," she said. "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."

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since January 2017, with over 160 key pieces of legislation sitting in limbo as they can't be enacted without the Assembly sitting.

The final entry on the register is for four tickets to an American football game, also at Wembley stadium, dated October 21, valued at £624. On that date, the Tennessee Titans narrowly lost to the LA Chargers.

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