Karen Bradley given picture of boy killed by British Army in his coffin
Families bereaved by security forces’ violence who met Karen Bradley over her controversial comments on state killings gave her a photograph of an 11-year-old boy in his coffin after he was shot dead by the British Army.
The Northern Ireland Secretary approached a number of victims’ groups following her gaffe.
During the meeting Mrs Bradley was given a number of pictures of Stephen McConomy, who was shot and killed by a plastic bullet close to his home in Londonderry in 1982.
The photographs of the schoolboy included one of him in his school uniform two weeks before he was killed, another of him on a life support machine and one of him in his coffin.
Representatives from the campaign group Relatives for Justice said Mrs Bradley was left “speechless” at the images.
Mrs Bradley’s remarks in the Commons on Wednesday, that killings carried out by the police and military during the Troubles were not crimes, rather the actions of people “fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”, sparked fury among some victims and political parties.
The delegation of relatives travelled to Stormont House in Belfast on Friday to discuss the furore.
Speaking after the meeting, Frances Meehan, whose brother was shot dead by the British Army in 1980, called for Mrs Bradley to resign.
“I wanted to meet her because I wanted to look her in the eye to tell her how I felt about her comments in the House of Commons,” she said.
“I also wanted to say to her that on this day, International Women’s Day, that she is an insult to women. We know she has apologised but her position is completely and utterly untenable and she needs to resign.”
Relatives of those killed in shootings involving the Army in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971 refused to meet Mrs Bradley.
John Teggart, whose father Danny was shot 14 times at Ballymurphy, said Mrs Bradley should resign.
“We will not meet her, and have one request for Mrs Bradley and that is for her to resign immediately,” he said.
“Families request that those parties who support our campaign join us and refuse to meet with Karen Bradley.
“Do the dignified and appropriate thing – resign, Karen Bradley.”
Mrs Bradley made it clear on Thursday that she would not be leaving her role, vowing instead to work to deliver for people she had offended.
“I want to get on and get this job done,” she said.
Downing Street has said Prime Minister Theresa May retains full confidence in her.
The minister’s comments carried added significance as they were made a week before long-awaited decisions from Northern Ireland prosecutors on whether 17 soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry in 1972 will face prosecution.
She returned to the Commons on Wednesday in a bid to clarify the comments and, on Thursday, issued a statement of apology, saying she was “profoundly sorry”.
In an interview with the Press Association in Belfast on Thursday evening, Mrs Bradley said there were “no excuses” for what she said.
“I shouldn’t have said it and I want to say sorry to all those people, all those families that have been kind enough to share their experiences with me,” she said.
“I want to say sorry to them because I didn’t want to cause hurt or pain or distress to them in any way, and what I want to do is deliver for them, and I am absolutely determined I will do.
“I recognise that a slip of the tongue at the wrong moment has caused enormous distress.
“I want to be very clear – I do not believe what I said, that is not my view.
“I believe that where crimes have happened, no matter who the perpetrator, they should be properly investigated by an independent authority and they should be prosecuted.
“There is no excuse for anybody where a crime has been committed.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mrs Bradley’s apology was “genuine and heartfelt”.
Speaking in Dublin he said: “She has accepted that her comments were insensitive and wrong.
“What’s important now is that it’s followed up on, from words must follow actions. That involves full funding for legacy inquests and it involves setting up the historical inquiries team which has been committed to by the UK Government.
“Where there was wrongdoing by members of the security forces, whether it was north or south of the border, they need to be be properly investigated and prosecuted if there is a case.”