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06th Mar 2019

NI secretary says soldiers responsible for killings during Troubles acted in “dignified and appropriate” way

Rory Cashin

karen bradley

The comments have been called “offensive and outrageous”.

Speaking at the House Of Commons on Wednesday afternoon, Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley was asked about legacy issues by DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly.

In response, Bradley said “Over 90% of the killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists, every single one of those was a crime. The fewer than 10% 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 duty in a dignified and appropriate way.”

Bradley made the statement on the same day that the British prime minister Theresa May announced that the Ministry of Defence was considering introducing legislation to ensure that British soldiers were not unfairly pursued through the courts.

It is also in advance of next week’s decision by the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) as to whether any former British soldiers will be charged over the Bloody Sunday killings.

Since then, Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O’Neill issued a statement via their official party website:

“The remarks by British Secretary of State Karen Bradley that killings carried out by British state forces were not crimes were outrageous and offensive. It follows on from comments by the British prime minster indicating that the British government is planning legislation to protect serving and former British soldiers who may have committed crimes.

“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.

“Karen Bradley’s comments also show contempt for the legal system, including ongoing court cases into legacy cases involving the British state and its forces. 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 British government should implement the legacy mechanisms already agreed rather than attempt to continue to thwart justice.”

Later on Wednesday, Bradley clarified her initial statement, saying they “might have been open to misinterpretation. 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.”