The Irish premier has said Karen Bradley’s comments over deaths caused by soldiers and police during the Troubles were insensitive and wrong.
Ms Bradley faced calls to resign following the comments on Wednesday, which sparked criticism from victims of the security forces and nationalist political leaders, while the Irish government sought an explanation.
Ms Bradley initially told MPs on Wednesday: “The fewer than 10% (of killings) that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes.
“They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way.”
Leo Varadkar said although he respects Ms Bradley, her comments were wrong considering the ongoing search for answers from some victims’ families.
“Legacy issues in Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland are very difficult,” he said.
“I’ve met families who have lost loved ones during the Troubles and they’re still grieving, a lot of them are still hurting and have questions that are unanswered and are seeking justice even today.
“In that context, I think the Secretary of State’s comments were insensitive and they were wrong.
“Bear in mind we’re talking about the killing of civilians, not combatants, peaceful protesters in Derry on Bloody Sunday, we’re talking about Ballymurphy, Kingsmill and Dublin and Monaghan,” Mr Varadkar said.
“We need a British government that is at least open to the possibility that these killings of civilians were crimes.
“Indeed, there have been convictions for such killings.”
Asked if Ms Bradley should resign, Mr Varadkar said: “Not gonna go there.
“It’s not for me to determine the composition of any other government, that’s something for the Prime Minister and Karen herself to decide.”
Irish deputy leader Simon Coveney met with Ms Bradley in Dublin on Wednesday night, and speaking during leaders’ questions said there was a lack of sensitivity in the comments.
“The timing couldn’t be worse,” he said.
“When you look at what is likely to happen next week when 14 families are waiting for a briefing from the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.
“That is a very stressful time for them.
“When considering the timing of the judgment in relation to the Pat Finucane case, again which has heightened focus on legacy issues.
“When you look at the Police Ombudsman’s investigation and the information flow from the PSNI, which again has raised real concerns.
“When you look at ongoing requests for more information being released in relation to Dublin and Monaghan bombings. This is a time of real sensitivity. It’s also a time of real sensitivity for many victims of violence and terrorism too, from Kingsmill to many other areas, as well as Ballymurphy families.
“We are at a really sensitive point in Northern Ireland where legacy needs to be dealt with in a sensitive way.
“The Secretary of State is very aware of that. That is why she has issued a long statement today and I hope that we will see direct contact with some of the families concerned to look to try to rebuild some trust and faith following yesterday’s comments.”
Ms Bradley sought to apologise in a statement on Thursday.
“Yesterday I made comments regarding the actions of soldiers during the Troubles,” she said.
“I want to apologise. I am profoundly sorry for the offence and hurt that my words have caused. The language was wrong and even though this was not my intention, it was deeply insensitive to many of those who lost loved ones.”
Speaking in the Irish parliament (Dail), Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary described her comments as “completely inappropriate”.
He said: “She ignored the grief of the (Bloody Sunday) families. Yesterday’s remarks were absolutely callous and completely out of order.
“Does she realise how careless and offensive her remarks are?”
Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said: “It was an outrageous and ridiculous statement. No-one can be above the law and bereaved families who have been campaigning for almost five decades are entitled to the justice that the seek.”