Northern Ireland news

Karen Bradley: British soldiers responsible for Troubles killings acted in 'dignified and appropriate way'

Karen Bradley said British soldiers who killed during the Troubles acted in a "dignified and appropriate way" 

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said killings carried out by members of the British security forces during the Troubles were not crimes but the actions of "people fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way."

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Ms Bradley said: "Over 90 per cent of the killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists. Every single one of those was a crime. The fewer than 10 per cent that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes.

"They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way."

The secretary of state was responding to a question from DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly about mechanisms to investigate killings carried out by paramilitaries during the Troubles.

Her comments come as the Public Prosecution Service is set to decide next week whether British soldiers responsible for the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings will face prosecution.

Ms Bradley caused controversy last year when she said investigations into killings during the Troubles showed a "disproportionate emphasis on the actions of the military and law-enforcement bodies."

Her comments echoed those of British prime minister Theresa May who said that "the only people being investigated for these issues that happened in the past are those in our armed forces or those who served in law enforcement in Northern Ireland."

The claims were rejected by PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton who said figures which show former security force members are linked to only 30 per cent of cases within the PSNI's legacy investigations branch "speak for themselves".

Ms Bradley has also been criticised for previously admitting she initially did not understand that the north’s nationalists did not vote for unionist parties during elections.

Alliance leader Naomi Long called on the secretary of state to apologise for today's comments. 

She said: “Karen Bradley needs to realise the statement she made is not just appalling and deeply hurtful to families of those killed by the security services, many of whom are still waiting for an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones, but they have also undermined due process and the rule of law.

“We cannot have a situation where the secretary of state – or indeed any politician – takes it upon themselves to decide whether a killing was a crime or not. That is a matter for the courts to decide based on a thorough investigation of the circumstances and a trial.

“It is imperative the secretary of state now clarifies her remarks, withdraws this statement and apologises for the harm caused. Otherwise it is hard to see how her position is tenable.”

Green Party leader Clare Bailey said: "Karen Bradley's comment that security forces killings were 'not crimes' is outrageous.

"Karen Bradley has shown herself to be disconnected from Northern Ireland affairs and the ongoing legacy of the conflict here - but this comment constitutes a new low for the secretary of state.

"I would call for Karen Bradley to resign as Secretary of State but I'm fairly sure the performance any new Secretary of State appointed by Prime Minster Theresa May would be equally as dismal."

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager, said: “Karen Bradley should immediately retract and apologise for her comments." 

“Not only are they wholly undermining of the rule of law and due process but they are also extremely offensive to anyone who lost loved ones at the hands of the state and still await justice.”

Ms Bradley later returned to the chamber to clarify her comments.

She said: "The point I was seeking to convey was that the overwhelming majority of those who served carried out their duties with courage, professionalism, and integrity and within the law.

"I was not referring to any specific cases but expressing a general view. Of course, where there is evidence of wrongdoing it should always be investigated whoever is responsible.

"These are of course matters for the police and prosecuting authorities who are independent of government."

Last month it was revealed that one of the former soldiers being investigated over Bloody Sunday had died. Soldier N, a former lieutenant in the Parachute Regiment, was being investigated in connection with the shooting and wounding of Derry man, Michael Bridge.

Mr Bridge was shot and badly injured when he remonstrated with soldiers after they had fatally wounded teenager, Jackie Duddy.

Soldier N's conduct as an officer was criticised by Lord Saville who said there had been a “serious and widespread loss of fire discipline” among soldiers because of shots fired by him. The Inquiry criticised the former soldier, not only for opening fire, but for failing to realise the impact his shooting would have on other members of his regiment.

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