Northern Ireland Secretary clarifies remarks on security force killings

Deaths at the hands of soldiers and police during the Troubles were not crimes, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has said.

Her comments sparked anger and later she returned the House of Commons to clarify the remarks to MPs.

She was criticised by nationalist politicians who said she had insulted families who lost loved ones killed by the British Army.

More than 90% of deaths caused during 30 years of violence involved republican or loyalist paramilitaries.

Ms Bradley initially told MPs on Wednesday: “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.”

She later returned to the House of Commons to make clear her position, saying: “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.”

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said Ms Bradley had made “outrageous and offensive” comments during her initial appearance in Parliament.

Mrs O’Neill said: “British politicians cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over the legal system.

“No one can be above the law and bereaved families, some of whom have been campaigning for almost five decades, are entitled to access to truth and justice.

“These offensive and hurtful comments should be withdrawn immediately.”

The Northern Ireland Secretary’s words came during oral Northern Ireland-related questions in the House of Commons.

Mrs O’Neill said she had displayed “contempt” for the legal system, including ongoing court proceedings into legacy cases involving the British state and its forces.

“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.

“They will add to the injury caused to these families by the British government’s continued attempts to block access to truth and justice. It is a further alienation of families who have already suffered awful tragedies.”

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaigns manager, said Ms Bradley should 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.”

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