Secretary of State 'did not intend to cause offence' with Troubles remarks

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By PA and Hannah Spratt

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said she did not intend to cause offence but fell short of apologising after saying deaths caused by soldiers and police during the Troubles were not crimes.

Her comments sparked calls to resign and provoked trenchant criticism from outraged victims of the security forces and nationalist political leaders, while the Irish Government sought an explanation.

Ms Bradley returned to the House of Commons to clarify to MPs that alleged wrongdoing should always be investigated.

Next week, prosecutors will announce whether soldiers will face trial for the Bloody Sunday killings of 14 innocent civilians in Londonderry.

When asked on Wednesday evening if she would like to apologise for her comments, Ms Bradley told the Press Association: "Coming back to the House of Commons and correcting the record is the biggest statement I can make in terms of the inadvertent comments that I made during oral questions.

"I was absolutely determined to be clear to everybody that what I had said needed correcting and to do so on the floor of the House of Commons is the biggest statement I can make."

She said she did not intend to cause "any offence or upset to anybody", adding: "I am determined that we will find a way to deal with the issue of the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland as soon as possible and in a way that is right and fair for victims and everyone."

Mrs Bradley made the original controversial statement in Westminster yesterday: 

Meanwhile, relatives of two people killed on Bloody Sunday say the comments have caused great hurt to their families and have called for the Secretary of State to resign. 

John Kelly's 17 year-old brother Michael was killed in the 1972 atrocity, while Kate Nash also lost her 19 year-old brother William.

They've been speaking to Q Radio: 

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O'Neill has described them as "outrageous" and "offensive". 

"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 minister 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."

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