KILLINGS carried out by British security forces during the Troubles were not crimes, the UK's Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley has said.
Addressing the House of Commons on Wednesday, Ms Bradley claimed that "fewer than 10 per cent" of Troubles deaths in the North were caused by members of the military or police and that they had carried out "dignified and appropriate" actions rather than criminal acts.
The Conservative MP, 48, also said that "every single one" of the killings "at the hands of terrorists" during the Troubles era were to the contrary in fact criminal.
Ms Bradley's statement has sparked widespread anger just days after it emerged that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is due to decide on whether ex-paratroopers involved in the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry will face prosecution.
Matters have been made even more sensitive this week by the revelation that UK anti-terror police are treating the dissident republican group the New IRA as prime suspects after explosive devices were sent to three key transport hubs in London on Tuesday.
Ms Bradley's remarks came in response to a question from DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly, who had her whether she was going to put in place a mechanism to investigate unsolved murders and injuries caused by acts of terrorism during the Troubles.
John Finucane, the son of murdered Catholic solicitor Pat Finucane, tweeted: "Legally, politically and morally these comments are indefensible, yet is it really surprising to hear a SoS publicly express the contempt we know the British govt had for lives here?"
Also taking to Twitter, the Relatives 4 Justice group wrote: "The Secretary of State comments this morning coming a week before the PPS decision on Bloody Sunday soldiers is blatant political interference in due process."
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew, said Ms Bradley's position as NI Secretary was now "untenable" in the wake of her comments.
She’s an absolute disgrace. KarenBradley has to know the extent of hurt and pain that comment will cause for the victims families. Her position is untenable. https://t.co/AZtJATFCFJ
— Michelle Gildernew (@gildernewm) 6 March 2019
Speaking less than an hour after Ms Bradley, UK Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the Ministry of Defence is considering potential legislation to ensure"service personnel are not unfairly pursued through the courts" over incidents during the Troubles.
Last year, Mrs May said that the system for investigating alleged Troubles crimes was "unfair" as she claimed members of the "armed forces and law enforcement" were being investigated disproportionately, with "very little emphasis on the actions of paramilitary terrorists".
However, official PSNI figures released in 2017 cast doubt on claims that Troubles investigations unduly focused on those committed by UK security forces – with such cases accounting for around 30% of legacy probes.
Of the 1,118 deaths being investigated at the time, 530 involved republicans, 271 concerned loyalists and 354 related to British soldiers or police officers.
Secretary of State Karen Bradley has told the House of Commons that killings by police and soldiers were not crimes, but involved people fulfilling their duty in a 'dignified and 'appropriate way'..... She should resign with immediate effect! Useless SOS.
— Conal Ó h-Ádhmaill (@Conalhamill0608) 6 March 2019