Bradley’s stupid blunder demonstrates lengths May will go to keep DUP support
The British prime minister, Theresa May, puts on a special voice when she’s reassuring the DUP about “our precious, precious union”. We all know she only does it to hold on to their precious, precious votes. However, it is now clear she is dangerously willing to pay any price for the highly equivocal loyalty of that party.
She has already alienated the majority of Northern voters, those who voted to remain in the EU, over Brexit. Now she has shown that her government will trample on the independence of the legal system, jeopardise trials and inquests, and grievously insult the families of children, women and men bereaved at the hands of her security forces.
It was the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly who asked the question in parliament on Wednesday. With so much focus on the 10 per cent of people killed by the security forces during the Troubles, she demanded, what was the government going to do for the other 90 per cent, those she called the “innocent victims of terrorism”.
As it happens, Little-Pengelly’s father was convicted, in France, of involvement in a loyalist gun-running plot. Alongside the late Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson, he donned the red beret of the Ulster Resistance Movement.
He denies he actually imported arms. The DUP distanced itself from the group after it came out that it had imported weapons. But when it gets exercised about terrorists, the DUP is referring, by and large, to the IRA. It is left to others to point out that mounting evidence of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries skews all the figures.
The context of Little-Pengelly’s question is the impending announcement by the Public Prosecution Service about whether or not paratroopers will face prosecution over the role of the regiment on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 when 13 unarmed civilians were murdered. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley thanked her for asking. Killings during the conflict by soldiers and police were “not crimes”, she said. These people were “acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”.
Harrowing evidence While she was speaking, an inquest in Belfast was hearing from a man who said he had spent the last 48 years trying to forget what he had seen on the day he was shot as a nine-year-old child by a British soldier during what has become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre.
The Butler brothers were shot at as they tried to run away across a field. They saw soldiers flinging injured people and bodies into the back of a Saracen. One teenager was crying.
“One of the soldiers pulled out a gun and said F**k up, you c**t and shot him once or twice towards the chest. There was no sound from him after that,” Edward Butler said in evidence.
Relatives of Joan Connolly who had come out of her house to search for her daughters, sobbed as they heard harrowing evidence of her final moments after she was shot in the face. Those soldiers were from the Parachute Regiment. Had the regiment been disciplined in any way for its actions that day, its soldiers might not have felt free to go on a similar rampage in Derry six months later – on what will henceforth be known not as Bloody but as Dignified and Appropriate Sunday.
Bradley has already won herself a reputation as the stupidest and most inept secretary of state anyone can remember – she laughingly boasted that when she was given the role she had not known that nationalists did not vote for unionists, and vice versa.
Now she has blundered into undoing the tentative healing which began with former prime minister David Cameron stating in 2010 that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”. She has also inadvertently lent her support to those who argue that it is various decorated gents including Gen Sir Mike Jackson who should be in the dock since they were the givers of orders and instructions.
Outrageous comments More shocking even than her outrageous comments was the fact that while the SOS (oh the aptness of that acronym!) was speaking, her Tory colleagues on the benches behind her continued to chat among themselves, as oblivious to what Bradley was saying as they were to the television cameras.
At one level, it is just another demonstration of how little the parties at Westminster care about the North. For years now, MPs have been racing each other to the exit doors whenever it comes up. Bradley rushed through Northern Ireland’s budget last week to benches that were almost empty.
Report after report shows that the North is likely to be disproportionately badly impacted by Brexit, particularly if there is no deal. That hasn’t stopped the Conservatives, particularly the extreme Brexiteers who are favourites among the DUP, from flirting with that outcome.
But it is worse than that. When the British government signed up to the Belfast Agreement in 1998, it committed itself to “rigorous impartiality”. In her desperate bid to hold on to power at any cost, the prime minister has abandoned all pretence of this. As for the profundity of Bradley’s belated apology – we already have irrefutable evidence that this secretary of state is deeply, deeply shallow. Is it reassuring when a senior politician says, “I want to be very clear – I do not believe what I said. That is not my view” ? It is not.
With many thanks to: The Irish Times for the original story
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, gave the following speech to the Annual Conference of the British-Irish Association on Friday 7 September 2018.
7 September 2018 (Speaker’s notes, may differ from delivered version)
Since 1972 the BIA has played a key role in bringing together politicians, civil servants, academics, business people, faith leaders, journalist, commentators and many more to promote dialogue and understanding throughout these islands and to try and shape a better future together.
So thank you for everything you have done and I am sure will continue to do in the years to come.
This is of course my first BIA conference since the Prime Minister asked me to take on the role of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in January, something that I had absolutely no hesitation in accepting.
And as Secretary of State, I know what an amazing place Northern Ireland is and what it has to offer.
Indeed, it’s not surprising that nearly all of my predecessors look back on their time with huge affection, with a number regarding it as the most rewarding and important job they ever had in government.
So as I’ve gone out and about over the past nine months, meeting as many people as I can, it’s impossible not to be struck by the warmth of the place. Its beauty, its spirit and, yes, its history but also its massive potential.
I’ve made a point of visiting with my family some of the great attractions that Northern Ireland has to offer: the Fermanagh lakes, the Giant’s Causeway, the Titanic Visitor attraction, to name but a few. And each time they can’t wait to come back for more.
So Northern Ireland is a very special place, and I believe one with a great future.
And this year of course we have been marking the 20th anniversary of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, an historic landmark in the history not just of Northern Ireland but of these islands as a whole.
It was, as I said in April, a triumph of politics over the previous decades of violence, division and despair.
Twenty years on it is perhaps easy for some to lose sight of the magnitude of what was achieved in 1998.
So let me spell some them out.
The constitutional position of Northern Ireland settled on the principle of consent.
The Irish constitution amended to reflect that fact.
Political institutions to accommodate and give expression to both the main traditions in Northern Ireland.
Strong new bodies to foster greater North-South and East-West co-operation.
Powerful protections for people’s rights, culture and identities.
Reforms to make policing and the criminal justice system more accountable and acceptable across the community.
And of course the consequences of all of this: a more peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland that is in so many ways unrecognisable since the dark days of the troubles, notwithstanding the severe threat we continue to face from dissident republicans.
All of these gains were hard fought, the result of years of painstaking discussions and negotiations, and we should never forget just how precious they are or indeed shy away from making the case for the 1998 Agreement.
It is our duty to do whatever is necessary to protect and defend it, and that is what this Government will continue to do.
So let me reiterate for the avoidance of any doubt: the UK Government remains steadfast in its support for the Belfast Agreement, the bedrock on which the progress across the three interlocking relationships – within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and Ireland and between the UK and Ireland – has been made over the past twenty years.
We will do nothing that undermines this, including as the UK leaves the EU next March.
And over recent years Northern Ireland has continued to take many great steps forward, not least on the economy.
Unemployment, which in 2010 stood at just over 7 per cent, is now 3.8 per cent, one of the lowest figures on record and significantly below the EU average.
Meanwhile employment, at just over 69 per cent, is at near record levels. In all, 63,000 more people are in work in Northern Ireland today than in 2010 … with nearly 19,000 new jobs in the past year. That’s more people with the security of a regular pay packet for them and their families.
Average weekly earnings have grown at a faster rate in Northern Ireland than in any other UK region.
There are over 12,000 more businesses than was the case 8 years ago.
Over 900 overseas companies have invested in Northern Ireland, making it the most popular location for FDI outside of London and the South East – the highest number of FDI jobs per head of any part of the UK.
Since 2011, exports are up by 11per cent, and external sales, including to the rest of the UK, are up 18 per cent.
Tourism is booming, as anyone who has seen the cruise ships docked in Belfast this year will testify.
We have more people staying for longer than ever before, with impressive new hotels to accommodate them and more in the pipeline.
And of course next year the eyes of the world will once again be on Northern Ireland as the oldest and most famous golfing championship in the word, the Open, is played at Royal Portrush.
None of this has happened by accident. It has been the result of the hard work of the people of Northern Ireland, with productivity increasing in Northern Ireland at a faster rate than in any other UK region.
And, I might add, a fiscally responsible UK Government prepared to take the necessary measures and pursue policies at a national level to allow business and enterprise to thrive across the whole of the UK, with the result that we now have the lowest levels of unemployment across the country than at any time in over 40 years.
A UK Government that despite severe pressures on public expenditure continues to recognise Northern Ireland’s special circumstances through generous support in the Block Grant.
We have maintained public spending in Northern Ireland at around 20 per cent per head higher than the UK average.
Over the current spending review period UK Government financial support to the Northern Ireland Executive has increased by 5 per cent in real terms.
The Prime Minister’s recent pledge of an additional £20.5 billion to the NHS by 2024, which means an extra £760 million a year by 2023-24 for Northern Ireland under the Barnett formula.
We’ve helped hard working people: some 745,000 people in Northern Ireland will have gained by an average of £182 as a result of our increases to the personal allowance and higher rate tax threshold.
We’ve increased the National Living Wage to £7.83, delivering a £600 annual pay rise to full-time workers in Northern Ireland.
And we’ve committed substantial additional security funding to help the PSNI tackle the continuing terrorist threat: £160 million over this spending review period and £230 million in the last one.
These are just a few examples of how Northern Ireland has shared in our national economic recovery in recent years, and how Northern Ireland benefits from the strength and security of being part of the world’s fifth largest economy.
Yet for all the successes there are significant challenges too.
Economic growth in the past year has been flat, lower than the UK as a whole and in Ireland.
Rates of economic inactivity remain higher than in other parts of the UK.
Hospital waiting lists are longer than in England and are getting worse.
There are other examples of where a current lack of ministerial decision making is holding Northern Ireland back.
Corporation tax has yet to be devolved, meaning that Northern Ireland remains at an economic disadvantage when it comes to competing for foreign direct investment with Ireland.
Construction projects worth up to £2bn are at risk due to the lack of key planning decisions, including plans for a new £30m quay for cruise ships, a new £175m transport hub for Belfast, a £280m power plant, the North-South electricity interconnector worth around £200m and a £50m office block at Belfast Harbour.
Strategies for building a stronger society and a shared future, as well as tackling paramilitary activity, have lost momentum.
And of course while I continue to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests and needs are represented at the heart of Government, Northern Ireland would be better placed to meet the challenges and opportunities of Brexit with an Executive in place.
In the absence of a devolved Executive we have brought forward measures at Westminster to ensure good governance and stability.
In July the Government took a budget through Westminster to enable the continued delivery of public services
And before the summer recess I announced plans to bring forward legislation enabling me to make key public appointments, for example to a reconstituted Policing Board.
But none of this is any substitute for devolution – a locally elected Assembly and Executive taking decisions on behalf of all the people of Northern Ireland.
And while I am not saying that a devolved government would solve all the problems I’ve just mentioned overnight, I am convinced that it could make a real difference to people’s lives and helping to unlock even further the undoubted and enormous potential that Northern Ireland has to offer.
The absolute priority, therefore, for this Government – as I know it is the Irish Government – is to see a restoration of the devolved power sharing institutions at Stormont, and all the other related bodies, at the earliest opportunity.
And yesterday in the House of Commons I set out a plan to try help bring that about.
I announced that I intend to bring forward legislation that will provide for a limited and prescribed period in which there will be no legal obligation to set a date for an election.
Importantly, during this time an Executive may be formed at any point without the requirement for further legislation. This will provide the opportunity to re-establish political talks aimed at restoring the Executive as soon as possible.
The legislation I intend to introduce after the party conference recess will also include provisions to give greater clarity and certainty to enable NI departments to continue to take decisions in Northern Ireland in the public interest and to ensure the continued delivery of public services.
I intend to consult parties in Northern Ireland over how this might best be done.
I also intend, therefore, to use the next few weeks to engage in further discussions with the parties and the Irish Government, in accordance with the well-established three stranded approach with the intention of establishing a basis for moving into more formal political dialogue that leads to a restoration of the institutions.
Finally, I also announced that I would be bringing forward a reduction in MLA pay.
I believe that the people of Northern Ireland want to see a restoration of their political institutions and that is what this Government is committed to achieving.
Stable and effective devolved government is the right thing for Northern Ireland.
And I am in no doubt that it is best for the Union.
With many thanks to: GOV.UK for the original posting.
Media queries should be directed to Bob Honey, NIO Communications Team, on 07956 579 286
This letter was written in The Irish News today Monday 24th April – How come our very well paid (by us) politations did not open their eyes to This?
CLAIMS of a legal ‘witch hut’ against former British soldiers who served during the Trouble’s have been made during a rally of British army veterans in Belfast (April 15th). The former soldiers claim there is a prosecutorial bias against former British soldiers over murders during the Trouble’s. Secretary of State James Brokenshire also claims investigations into killings during the Trouble’s are disproportionately focusing on members of the police and army. This claim is without a shredofevidenceorcredibility. Availableevidence suggests that the British government shelving of the in-depth investigations and report by John Stalker and Colin Sampson on British shoot-to-kill policy and the Stevens Report on British security forces collusion with loyalists which resulted in countless killings, in fact shielded British soldiers and police from prosecution. Further evidence of protecting British security forces from prosecution is the continuing withholding of files pertaining to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Does Mr Brokenshire need reminding that British soldiers and police were and are acting on behalf of the British State and are a constitutional arm of ‘the UK government and recognised so internationally in law’?
With many thanks to: Tom Cooper Chairperson, Irish National Congress, Dublin 7.
YOU probably didn’t notice and there’s no reason why you should, but the same day that a certain loyalist blogger and serial self-publicist was giving evidence to Stormont’s Nama inquiry the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) snuck out its policy paper on implementing the Stormont House Agreement.
Needless to say it got it got virtually no coverage in the tidal wave of sensational allegations made about the alleged recipients of money from the Cerberus deal. If you’ve ever wondered why the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) decided to draft the Stormont House Agreement Bill 2015 and bring it through Westminister rather than allow the clowns in the big house on the hill to legislate, once you read the policy paper all becomes clear. Quite simply the British government intends to control the Historical Inquires Unit (HIU), on what information it can have and what it can reveal. Anyone who beleives that the Policing Board will hold the HIU accountable is living in cloud-cuckoo land. “The secretary of state will have oversight of the HIU regarding reserved and excepted matters.” The UK government will prevent disclosure of any material or information ‘likely to prejudice national security (including information from the intelligence services)’. None of this material can be published ‘without the consent of the secretary of state’. Now as we all know from past experience, ‘likely to prejudice national security’ is whatever our proconsul for the time being decides is national security. When you look at the policy paper you see it begins with a questionable statement and continues to ignore all suggestions and recommendations made by interested parties, nationalist political parties, NGOs like the Committee for the Administration of Justice and university academics. In short, it’s a classic NIO document. It begins with the unconvincing claim that ‘the institutions have the needs of the victims and their families are at their heart’. No. The needs of secrecy in the Ministry of Defence, the NIO and the Home Office are at their heart. It has never been any different in the secretive British state.
For example it was only in 2002 after Freedom of Information requests that details of Special Branch investigation into Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish MPs were released and even then only in restricted fashion. The names of informers (touts) and amounts paid are still secret 125 years after the fact. Academics at QUB, Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) politicians and the CAJ among others recommended that former RUC and RUC Special Branch personnel be not employed in the HIU partly because they may have been complicit in collusion or cover up or both. The great merit of the Historical Enquiries Team was that its personnel were seconded from English forces and we all know why. However, ignoring all that, ‘the bill does not prohibit the HIU from recruiting persons who have previously served in policing or security roles in the North of Ireland.’
So the HIU won’t work and the NIO has made sure it won’t work because it will only investigate and publish what the NIO allows it to invstigate and publish. Then there’s the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). It’s modelled on the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) which has worked extremely well. However, the NIO policy paper goes out of its way to make clear that while information given to the ICIR is inadmissible in court, if that information is obtained or can be obtained by other means then prosecution may follow.
That puts the kibosh on the ICIR because given the record of the PSNI over the past four years, starting with the Boston College fiasco (all hearsay) and continuing with their apparent trawling after the killing of Kevin McGuigan with almost a score of people arrested and released, who is going to risk giving information to the ICIR to pass to families? Inevitably individuals in the PSNI/RUC would be working backwards from the material a family recieved. In mitigation it has to be said on the basis of evidence so far, that’s only likely in the case of prominent Sinn Féin figures. Buried in the policy paper is our proconsul’s admission that ‘on some detailed questions covered in the bill, there is not yet a clear consensus between the five main North of Ireland parties. Work will continue to build consensus on remaining points of difference.’ Yeah right. With many thanks to: Brian Feeny, for the origional story, The Irish News.
ON MONDAY the Department for Social Development publushed a report on the reasons people use food banks.
They concluded low income was the main reason. Astonishing. Who’da thought? There’s you thinking people toddled round to a food bank because they couldn’t get a bus to Tesco. You wonder how much that report cost. The banality of the report’s conclusion was matched perfectly by the response of the DSD minister. Go on, try to think of his name. Draw a blank? How appropriate. Here’s what he said almost in English. “Society – not just government – but collectively we need to take a strong look at why this is happening in the North of Ireland.” Surely his report had just told him? People aren’t paid enough. Another reason given was that people had to wait too long for benifit payment’s to kick in after losing their job or becoming to ill to work. Third, but not mentioned are benefit sanctions when people are refused cash because, for example, it’s deemed they aren’t trying to find a job. The minister was asking the wrong question. It’s not a matter of finding reasons for using food banks. It’s why has the number of food banks in the north increased from two, when our proconsul’s nasty government took over in 2010, to more than a dozen now? The reason is obvious. She’s a member of an increasingly unfair, unjust and inequitable government which on her occasional visits to the north she attempts to justify by mouthing irrelevancies designed for her own voters in one of the wealther, healthier parts of London. To give you an idea how much in common she has with people here you might like to know the average gross weekly earnings in her constituency are £675 compared to £518 for the UK as a whole and about £460 here. The average property price in Chipping Barnet is £370,000. Here it’s £120,000. In her constituency two per cent are on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). The north has the highest claim count of the twelve UK regions. Oh, and there’s one food bank in Barnet.
On the basis of her (Villiers) obvious deep experience of poverty in her constituency our proconsul regularly repeats her demand that the parties here sign up to the welfare cuts she wants to impose and pushed through in the Stormont House agreement as the single most important priority. Let’s repeat here again that the financial annexe in the Stormont House agreement is a bye-ball. The Stormont House agreement dealt with the cuts announced in 2012-13, not 2015. The deal embodied in the agreement won’t approach the cuts announced in July never mind the coming autumn statement and the comprehensive spending review. To give them their due, last December only Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) was talking about arrangements to mitigate the impact of cuts for the next five years. Now there’s a glimmer of hope. Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) and the DUP have been edging closer in meetings over the summer towards the point where senior Sinn Féin people think there’s a chance the DUP might come on board to ask the British for an upgraded package to take account of the draconian proposals our proconsul plans to impose next year. The DUP response to George Osborne’s July cuts showed the first sign of alarm. Sammy Wilson, now happily no longer spouting contempt in the assembly, reacted by worrying that the different benefit caps for London and elsewhere were the first indication of regional variations in benefit. Some DUP people fear that presages regional variations in public sector pay which would hit the party’s middle-class voters. Furthermore Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) hope the DUP’s antennae have twitched at the prospect that our proconsul’s instructions from Whitehall will hit the working poor and not just people on benefit stupidly disdained by the DUP as free loaders. Besides, no secretary of state would want to preside over the collapse of the assembly. It wouldn’t look well on her CV after the fiasco of the West Coast franchise which she awarded in 2012 before being reshuffled. While the report on that flawed, erroneous bidding process cleared our proconsul, her Labour shadow minister said, ‘ministers failed completely in their responsibilities’. A second fiasco would look careless.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeney, The Irish news, for the origionial story.