Karen Bradley admits ignorance of Northern Ireland politics
Karen Bradley Karen Bradley admits ignorance of Northern Ireland politics
The Northern Ireland secretary says she was âslightly scaredâ of the region before taking office
Karen Bradley has admitted that before becoming Northern Ireland secretary she was profoundly ignorant of the countryâs political divisions and âslightly scaredâ of the place.
She said she was unaware that nationalists did not vote for unionists and that unionists did not vote for nationalists â" the most elementary fact about Northern Ireland politics.
âI freely admit that when I started this job, I didnât understand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted issues that there are in Northern Ireland,â Bradley told House magazine, a weekly publication for the Houses of Parliament.
âI didnât understand things like when elections are fought, for example, in Northern Ireland â" people who are nationalists donât vote for unionist parties and vice versa. So, the parties fight for election within their own community.
âActually, the unionist parties fight the elections against each other in unionist communities and nationalists in nationalist communities.âMinister announces pay cut for Stormont assembly members Read more
Theresa May appointed Bradley to the post in January â" succeeding James Brokenshire â" at an exceptionally sensitive time because of Bre xit and the breakdown in Stormontâs power-sharing government.
Bradleyâs admission prompted astonishment that she had risen so far in the Conservative party and government without knowing that Northern Ireland voters split along constitutional lines.
Theresa May sent the former culture secretary to Belfast supposedly as a safe pair of hands. Bradley, 47, said Northern Ireland politics had seemed alien to her.
âThatâs a very different world from the world I came from where in Staffordshire Moorlands I was fighting a Labour-held seat as a Conservative politician and I was trying to put forward why you would want to switch from voting Labour to voting Conservative. That is so incredibly different and itâs when you realise that, and you see that, that you can then start to understand some of the things that the politicians say and some of the rhetoric.â
The Troubles had shaped her view of Northern Ireland and she had no idea how wonderful and vibra nt the region was, she said. âI was slightly scared of Northern Ireland because of my impression and images from 20 years ago. That is not the place that it is today.â
House magazine quoted Jenny Chapman, the shadow Brexit minister, calling the admissions embarrassing. âGiven this worrying lack of basic knowledge about Northern Ireland, itâs no wonder the Tories donât seem to understand the vital importance of preventing a return of a hard border there.â
Members of the Stormont assembly may not be in the mood to rush to the ministerâs defence. On Thursday she said their pay will be slashed after 19 months if the devolved government is not restored.
Their pay would fall from Â£49,500 to Â£35,888 in November, with another reduction of Â£6,187 three months later if the assembly did not resume its work, Bradley told MPs.
She ruled out immediate elections for the devolved assembly, which has not operated since power sharing between the DUP and Si nn FÃ©in collapsed in January last year, and announced plans for civil servants to have more powers to implement policies.
- Karen Bradley
- Northern Ireland
- Theresa May
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