Karen Bradley clarifies comments claiming British soldiers who killed in Troubles acted in 'dignified and appropriate way'
Secretary of State Karen Bradley has clarified comments she made earlier today in which she claimed killings carried out by members of the British security forces during the Troubles were not crimes.
Speaking in the House of Commons, 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.
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.
Spectacular misstep by NI SoS Karen Bradley in the Commons earlier – when the security forces kill people it's not a crime, she says pic.twitter.com/nY95drl4mQ— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) March 6, 2019
"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."
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."
Karen Bradley is publically interfering with the rule of law. No-one has the right to deliberately pressure or intervene with due process. She should resign.— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) March 6, 2019
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.
These comments are an insult to families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the British army, state agencies and their proxies in the loyalist death squads which were directed by the British state.— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) March 6, 2019
These offensive and hurtful comments should be withdrawn immediately. https://t.co/Ow1uNZoykg
“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.”
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.