Karen Bradley criticised for not visiting Fountain/Bogside; refuses to be drawn on peace wall

Karen Bradley overlooking the Bogside during a visit to the city earlier this year from almost the exact spot where automatic rifle fire struck the City Walls last week.
Karen Bradley overlooking the Bogside during a visit to the city earlier this year from almost the exact spot where automatic rifle fire struck the City Walls last week.

The Secretary of State for the North, Karen Bradley, has been criticised in the British House of Commons for not yet having visited the site of last week's disorder in the Bogside and Fountain despite the visits of the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, and the leaders of republicanism and unionism in Ireland at the weekend.

The Scottish National Party MP for Paisley, Gavin Newlands, speaking at Westminster on Wednesday, observed: "Simon Coveney has visited Derry and met the PSNI and residents, but the Secretary of State has not yet visited any areas affected by the violence."

He asked: "Will she tell the House why that is? Why has it taken an urgent question for her to address the House on this very important issue?"

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) minister replied: "I wish to correct the hon. Gentleman. He suggested that I had not visited any of the affected areas, but I was in east Belfast and Newtownards on Thursday, the site of some of the violence, and I intend to be in Derry/Londonderry in the near future.

"It is also worth saying that, as well as Simon Coveney, Arlene Foster visited the Fountain estate in Londonderry over the weekend, again to show her solidarity with the community."

During the discussion East Derry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said he had personally invited the Secretary of State for the North to the Fountain in the wake of last week's disorder.

"The most sustained campaign of violence was in the Fountain/Bogside area of Londonderry. She is right: I invited my party leader there to tour the area - hopefully, the shadow Secretary of State will be able to do the same with his party leader - to speak to the people who have suffered as a result of violence. First, will she confirm that she has received a written invitation from me to come and visit the area very urgently?"

The Secretary of State confirmed that she had received the invitation. She stated: "The hon. Gentleman is an assiduous constituency MP, who regularly raises many constituency issues with me. I join him in his tributes to the community and the PSNI for the work they have done.

"I can confirm that not only did I receive a written invitation from him but he personally hand-delivered that written invitation, so I have definitely received it."

Mrs. Bradley refused, however, to address Mr. Campbell's concerns about the peace wall between the Fountain and Bishop Street.

The DUP MP asked her if she would "review the security implications of the fencing there, so that the people who have lived under threat and under terror for many, many years can receive some comfort and assurance that action will be taken to help them."

The Secretary of State did not address this in her reply.