Political news

Anger over 'spad' role for former soldier

Northern Ireland Office minister turned spad Kris Hopkins

A victims' campaigner has voiced concern about the appointment of former soldier Kris Hopkins as a special adviser to new Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

Mr Hopkins was a junior minister in Northern Ireland for 11 months before losing his seat in last June's Westminster election.

The former Tory MP also served as a soldier in the north during the Troubles, surviving two IRA attacks in Belfast and south Armagh.

In 2010, he wrote of his "revulsion" at former Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness but said he supported the peace process.

Mr Hopkins has been appointed policy adviser to Mrs Bradley, who succeeded James Brokenshire earlier this month.

The secretary of state has also retained her predecessor's other 'spads' – former journalist Peter Cardwell and long-established Northern Ireland Office (NIO) aide Lord Jonathan Caine.

However, Mr Hopkins's appointment has been criticised by Relatives for Justice director Mark Thompson, who claimed it was "no coincidence" that he was being brought on board as "the Tory/DUP alliance seeks to push an amnesty for British soldiers through the UK parliament" .

Mr Thompson said the NIO had already written to his organisation stating that the proposed statute of limitations for British armed forces personnel would form part of a future consultation on legacy.

"But this matter did not form any part whatsoever of agreements reached between both governments and all the parties concerning legacy," he said.

Commentator Brian Feeney also said the appointment had the potential to jeopardise a successful outcome to talks aimed at restoring devolution, which continued at Stormont yesterday.

"Nationalists won't have much confidence in Karen Bradley's judgement when she has appointed someone with Kris Hopkins's background to advise on policy – someone rejected by the electorate last June," the Irish News columnist said.

"It looks like a way of rewarding him for losing his seat."

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