By Michael Calderbank, Brent Central CLP
Only the palpable weakness of Theresa May’s position as PM is keeping some of her Cabinet in place. Chris “Failing” Grayling has become an international by-word for governmental incompetence, with his support for successive bungled neoliberal schemes even making comment in the New York Times. But such is the pivotal role of Northern Ireland’s future in the Brexit negotiations, even May’s desparate bid to keep allies on board might not be able to save the hapless NI Secretary Karen Bradley.
It’s no revelation to suggest that Tories in general display a shocking “tin ear” on the subject of the six counties. Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson fatuously suggested that “so few” firms use the Irish border that the issue was becoming the “tail which wags the dog”. Around 30,000 border crossings each and every day suggests otherwise. Meanwhile, the eccentric Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared to welcome the return of border inspections “as we had during the Troubles”.
But such crass stupidity pales into insignificance in comparison to the comments made Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley this week, when she suggested that deaths arising directly from the activities of the British security services were “not crimes”. Unsurprisingly, the comments drew horrified grieving families seeking justice for the murder of their loved ones.
As former Policing Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan commented, Bradley demonstrated “a total lack of understanding about Northern Ireland and utter contempt for those who suffered the loss of loved ones”, adding “it is incomprehensible that anyone seized of the responsibilities given to Ms Bradley, who should be fully aware of the history of Northern Ireland, should comment in these terms”.
Such gross ignorance has resulted in a catastrophic collapse in confidence among large sections of the community, and must surely indicate that her continued tenure in the role is utterly untenable. The absence of proper criminal investigations and prosecutions into the state-sponsored murder of unarmed civilian protestors in the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday is an outrage. To conclude that the British State’s failure to investigate its own crimes mean that no crimes took place simply beggars belief.
But it’s not even just a failure of inaction. The British authorities are in fact brazenly attempting to prevent the truth of these crimes from coming out. Only last week, two independent journalists and broadcasters Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney – well respected across the sectarian divide – had their punitive bail terms extended as part of a criminal investigation into their own attempt to bring the truth of state collusion in the Loughinsland massacre of 1994 to light, in producing the award winning-film “No Stone Unturned”.
The two journalists have not yet been charged with any offence, yet their homes have been raided by armed police, they have had strict limitations placed on their movements, and faced attempts to prevent them talking about their arrest.
As Guardian journalist Ian Cobain commented on social media, “Six men shot dead in bar. Police don’t properly investigate. Official inquiry finds collusion between police & killers. Journalists make film about case. Police arrest journalists, and this week try to stop them speaking out. Uzbekistan? Zimbabwe?. No, UK”.
Under this failing Tory regime, it would appear, investigative journalism is a crime, but state-sponsored murder isn’t. Bradley’s comments reveal too much about her own mindset and that of the culture of Tory ignorance and contempt for the people in the North of Ireland. A belated apology will do nothing to restore her total lack of credibility. Put simply, Bradley must go.