Northern Ireland MP calls for home secretary to be sacked over 'hate march' Ulster comparison

A Northern Ireland MP has called for the Home Secretary to be sacked accusing her of "deliberately stoking division" after she described pro-palestinian demonstrations as 'hate marches' and comparing them to Northern Ireland scenes.

Colum Eastwood likened Suella Braverman to "a pound shop Enoch Powell" over her comments to a newspaper.

The SDLP leader said the Conservative minister displayed an ‘aggressive ignorance’ that makes her unfit for office.

In the House of Commons, DUP MP Ian Paisley defended the Home Secretary for "criticising the police correctly”. He said the Home Secretary was referring to nationalists and Republicans in her article.

One former Northern Ireland Secretary said the remarks were an attack on Orange Order marches.

Writing in The Times, Mrs Braverman claimed “hate marchers” intend to use the Armistice Day protest as a “show of strength”. The Home Secretary also characterised alleged reports that organisers of Saturday’s march were linked to Hamas as “disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster”.

Downing Street has said it did not clear Braverman’s article.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: “The content was not agreed by Number 10,”

He added that whilst Sunak has "full confidence" in the Home Secretary, the matter is being investigated.

MP Colum Eastwood said: “I have worked with British Home Secretaries with whom I have the most fundamental political differences, people who I disagree with on virtually every issue imaginable, but I haven’t doubted that in spite of our differences they were motivated by what they thought was right.

"I honestly can’t say the same for Suella Braverman. 

“The Home Secretary’s comments in an article in The Times today are so far removed from reality that it is impossible to come to any determination other than she is deliberately stoking division to bolster her own brand among the Conservative Party’s right wing.

"It’s honestly like reading a pound shop Enoch Powell piece.

Mr Eastwood continued: “The comments comparing the proposed Armistice Day protests against the appalling bombardment of civilians in Gaza with the marching tradition in Northern Ireland are an exercise in what can only be described as aggressive ignorance.

"Ignorance of the conditions faced by the civilian population in Gaza, ignorance of the role of the Met police, ignorance of the complex history and traditions of marching and protest in Northern Ireland.

"She has managed to offend just about everyone - no mean feat in a divided society.

He concluded: “The comments are far below the standard that should be expected from a senior government Minister. The only appropriate action now is her removal from office but given the systemic weakness of this government, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she remained.”

Responding to the Home Secretary’s piece, Labour MP Jess Phillips said: “Braverman makes our country less safe. Not satisfied with inflaming tensions in London she thought she’d also light a match under Northern Ireland relations. No right-thinking prime minister would stand by her, let alone approve her copy.”

Ian Paisley, in the Commons, said MPs were right to criticise the Metropolitan Police for their handling of a 2021 vigil for murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard, adding on the current criticism: “The hand-wringing hypocrisy and the pant-wetting that we’re seeing over someone criticising the police correctly is amazing.”

Former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Peter Hain said the remarks were an attack on Orange Order marches. He said: “Why on earth is this gratuitously offensive Home Secretary meddling in Northern Ireland affairs with her ignorant attack on Orange Order marches by traditional unionists? “She should stick to her day job and stop her scatter gun headline-grabbing attacks on all and sundry.”

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