Former NI Justice Minister questions if Bradley replacement would be 'any better'

Latest: Former Northern Ireland Minister for Justice David Ford says there is a concern that if Northern Secretary Karen Bradley were to resign would her replacement “be any better.”

“If we got a different Secretary of State from the current leadership of the Tory party would they be any better?” he said on RTE radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

“There's absolutely no doubt that there were major problems, both in the way she made that utterly inappropriate statement at question time in the House of Commons, a Secretary of State who couldn't deal with a relatively routine question without making a complete mess of it, then there was the so called clarification a few hours later which clarified nothing and it took 24 hours for an apology.

Former NI Justice Minister questions if Bradley replacement would be 'any better'

“If she'd been straight back into the House of Commons within the hour or two to apologise then she would have been in a better position, the real question now is whether she is completely damaged beyond any formal role or whether anybody else could do any better given the difficulties that we have in dealing with the current Conservative government who seem to listen to the DUP and nobody else in Northern Ireland even though the DUP represent only a minority of us.

“You would wonder about the people briefing Karen Bradley, it's not just her, look at the article Boris Johnson wrote in the Telegraph about prosecution of soldiers.

"We've had the Prime Minister, including this week, repeating the line that the balance of investigation is being solely directed against members of the armed forces of the RUC which is completely fallacious, it's approximately a third, not everything is being directed against them.

“So there are real questions about the whole of this current government and backbenchers like Boris Johnson, it's not just an issue of Karen Bradley, but it does raise serious questions as to how she reads her briefing notes because I cannot imagine that Northern Ireland office civil servants would have put the mistake that she made into the notes she had so was she incapable of understanding things the same as she doesn't understand how people vote in Northern Ireland or many other things.”

When asked if he thinks British soldiers should be prosecuted he said: “There is no statute of limitations on serious crimes like murder in the United Kingdom and anybody who acts that way should be prosecuted if there is evidence.

I've had conversations with police officers, at very senior level to middle acting grades who feel they are insulted when there's a suggestion that there should not be prosecutions of what they regard, and I would agree with them, is the small number of people who disobeyed their instructions, who went against the law and who carried out murder or other serious offences whilst still wearing uniform.

“The way in which we defend the integrity of the great majority who acted honourably in difficult circumstances is by ensuring that measures are taken when possible against those who didn't do as they should have.”

Earlier: Bradley comments either 'crass or attempt to suck up to the DUP'

The leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrats party, Vince Cable, says that if Northern Secretary Karen Bradley makes a “genuinely heartfelt apology” then “she should be moving on to other jobs.”

Former NI Justice Minister questions if Bradley replacement would be 'any better'

He told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland that with Sinn Féin not taking their seats in the House of Commons there is nobody to represent Nationalists from Northern Ireland.

“There has been a one-sided version of history and Northern Ireland’s role which is an unfortunate state of affairs.”

Mr Cable said it seemed like the Northern Secretary should be more aware of modern history and that there are two versions of events.

Given the sensitivity of the situation, Ms Bradley really should be considering her position, he said.

“It is right and good that she has apologised, but what she said caused enormous harm.

Either it was crass and insensitive or a deliberate attempt to suck up to the DUP.

“It may have been a slip of the tongue, but the timing was terrible.”

SDLP politician Colum Eastwood says that the timing of the comments of Northern Secretary Karen Bradley is suspicious.

“I don’t know if it was a slip of the tongue,” he told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland.

He said that she was not in primary school and could not just apologise and expect to move on.

“These families have been put through the wringer. They are being used as political pawns.”

Mr Eastwood said that the future cannot be built without first dealing with the past. “People should be held to account.”

The families of the victims of Bloody Sunday have waited almost five decades for justice, he added. For the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to stand up in the House of Commons and say that the actions of the soldiers were not crimes was “not good enough.”

It was an indication of “what is really going on behind the scenes in the British government.”

On the same programme Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said that Ms Bradley’s comments had been incredibly insensitive and wrong and she had moved to correct that mistake with her apology.

However, there was now an opportunity for Ms Bradley to “move on from words” and to do something to prove her sincerity.

This situation was a reminder of how much words matter, said Ms Doherty, and of how sensitive the situation is in Northern Ireland.

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