Increased calls for Bradley to resign despite efforts to neuter remarks

‘She is an insult to women,’ says sister of man killed in 1981 by British soldier’s plastic bullet

Northern secretary Karen Bradley faced further calls to resign on Friday despite continuing attempts to row back from her claim in the House of Commons that the British security forces never engaged in criminal killings during the Troubles.

After issuing her apology on Thursday following her controversial commentsthe previous day, Ms Bradley on Friday held a private meeting with a number of families whose close relations were killed by members of the British security forces during the conflict.

She said after the meeting that she was “grateful to each of them for giving me the opportunity to apologise personally for the offence and hurt that my words in parliament caused”.

“What I said was deeply insensitive to many of those who lost loved ones. It was humbling to listen to each of them and their personal and deeply moving stories,” she said.


“I heard about the hurt and suffering endured over many years, about the experiences of those whose family members died at the hands of the security forces.

“This cannot have been felt more deeply than by those who lost children during the Troubles. The families I met today referred to unarmed civilians and 82 children who lost their lives in incidents involving the security forces.”

Ms Bradley added: "Families from throughout Northern Ireland and from all parts of the community, who suffered as a result of the Troubles, rightly want to see justice properly delivered. Where there is any evidence of wrongdoing, this should be pursued without fear or favour whoever the perpetrators might be."

Position ‘untenable’

One of those who met her was Frances Meehan, whose brother Michael Donnelly died in 1981 when he was struck by plastic bullet fired by a British soldier.

“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,” said Ms Meehan.

“I also wanted to say to her that on this day, International Women’s Day, she is an insult to women,” she added. “We know she has apologised but her position is completely and utterly untenable and she needs to resign.”

Ms Bradley also was given photographs of 11-year-old Stephen McConomy who was killed by a plastic bullet fired by a British soldier in Derry in 1982. The pictures were of him in his coffin, on a life-support machine and in his school uniform two weeks before he was shot.

Representatives from campaign group Relatives for Justice said Ms Bradley was left “speechless” seeing the pictures.

Relatives of the 11 people allegedly killed by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971 also were invited to attend but they refused. An inquest into those killings which became known as the Ballymurphy Massacre currently is taking place in Belfast.

‘Resign immediately’

John Teggart, whose father Daniel was killed at Ballymurphy, said, "We have one request for Mrs Bradley and that is for her to resign immediately."

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill, who spoke to Ms Bradley on Thursday, said she suspected the British government’s “real intent is about protecting British soldiers responsible for the killings of Irish citizens from prosecution”.

“She has caused huge hurt to the families and victims of British state forces and their loyalist proxies. I have told her that her position was untenable. But this is much bigger than Karen Bradley. This goes to the very heart of British state policy on legacy,” she said.

DUP Assembly member Keith Buchanan said on Thursday he attended a memorial service in Coagh, Co Tyrone, marking 30 years since the IRA killed three Protestant men, Leslie Dallas, Austin Nelson and Ernest Rankin, in the village.

He complained of “an almost singular focus on the actions of those who set out each day to protect the community”.

“In every case of terrorist murder, those responsible went out with a specific and singular focus to bring death and destruction on to our streets,” said Mr Buchanan.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times