Karen Bradley has admitted that before becoming Northern Ireland secretary she was profoundly ignorant of the country’s political divisions and “slightly scared” of the place.
She said she was unaware that nationalists did not vote for unionists and that unionists did not vote for nationalists – the most elementary fact about Northern Ireland politics.
“I freely admit that when I started this job, I didn’t understand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted issues that there are in Northern Ireland,” Bradley told House magazine, a weekly publication for the Houses of Parliament.
“I didn’t understand things like when elections are fought, for example, in Northern Ireland – people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice versa. So, the parties fight for election within their own community.
“Actually, the unionist parties fight the elections against each other in unionist communities and nationalists in nationalist communities.”
Theresa May appointed Bradley to the post in January – succeeding James Brokenshire – at an exceptionally sensitive time because of Brexit and the breakdown in Stormont’s power-sharing government.
Bradley’s admission prompted astonishment that she had risen so…