Political news

Karen Bradley likely to follow Theresa May out of office

British prime minister Theresa May meets Secretary of State Karen Bradley at Stormont House. Picture by Mal McCann.

KAREN Bradley's tenure as Secretary of State is unlikely to last much longer than that of her prime minister, Theresa May.

Indeed Mrs Bradley's resilience in the face of a series of gaffes, which may have forced the departure of any of her predecessors, has been attributed to her position amongst a dwindling band of May loyalists.

One of her biggest blunders came early in her Northern Ireland career when she admitted that she had been unaware until her appointment in January last year that nationalists did not vote for unionists and unionists did not vote for nationalists.

She had taken office at a troubled time for the north, following failed rounds of negotiations helmed by her predecessor James Brokenshire and with the region having gone without government for a year.

But there was no sign until recently of increased efforts to secure a deal that would bring the parties of government - the DUP and Sinn Féin - back to work.

The latest round of cross-party talks came after political leaders were denounced from the pulpit at the funeral of dissident republican murder victim Lyra McKee.

Mrs Bradley's tenure has been characterised by her hands-off role, despite senior civil servants warning they were reaching the limit of their decision-making authority.

However, she provoked new levels of disapprobation in March when she told parliament that Troubles killings at the hands of security forces were "not crimes".

Victims of state violence - including relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday - called for her resignation and she was forced to first clarify and then apologise for her remarks and meet with affected families.

Weathering resignation calls, she kept her seat at the cabinet to provide stolid support to her now departing leader but faced criticism again in recent days amid emotional appeals from victims of institutional abuse to legislate to award them compensation.

Mick Fealty, editor of the Slugger O'Toole website, said Mrs Bradley will not survive Mrs May's June exit and warned that the post can "no longer be filled by the office junior".

If frontrunner Boris Johnston takes the leadership, Mr Fealty believes a senior figure such as Michael Gove could be named Secretary of State - with a budget to "get things done".

"It would signal a seriousness about getting things sorted. Previously when there were difficulties people like Peter Hain and Peter Mandelson were appointed.

"For someone like Gove to come in and get a deal and be able to say `I fixed Northern Ireland, what are you going to give me now?'"

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