N. Ireland Politics

Kris Hopkins: New NIO minister survived two IRA attacks

Kris Hopkins, a new junior minister at the NIO, supported the successful candidate Theresa May during the recent Conservative leadership contest Image copyright PA
Image caption Kris Hopkins, a new junior minister at the NIO, supported the successful candidate Theresa May during the recent Conservative leadership contest

A former soldier who escaped two IRA murder attempts during the Troubles has been appointed as a junior minister at the Northern Ireland Office.

Kris Hopkins, MP for the West Yorkshire constituency of Keighley and Ilkley, survived an IRA gun attack in Belfast and a mortar attack in County Armagh.

In 2010, he wrote about his experiences with the Army in Northern Ireland.

In the Yorkshire Post, he wrote of his "revulsion" at Martin McGuinness but said he supported the peace process.

"The IRA tried to shoot me on the New Lodge road, and tried to blow me up in a 16-round mortar attack in Bessbrook," Mr Hopkins wrote in November 2010.

He said those attacks "fossilised" his view of the IRA.

However, Mr Hopkins signalled his support for devolution in Northern Ireland and said when he watched politicians arguing over issues like water rates, he was thinking "how great it was that they were not trying to kill each other".

Bloody Sunday

On Sunday, the 53-year-old was given the role of parliamentary under secretary of state at the Northern Ireland Office - a junior ministerial role.

The article was written four month after the then prime minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the state for the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry.

The Saville report of June 2010 unequivocally blamed the Army for the fatal shooting of 14 civilians during a civil rights march through the city in 1972.

Image caption Fr Edward Daly waved a white cloth as he led injured and dying civilians past British troops on Bloody Sunday

Mr Hopkins said that at the time of the report's publication "it was difficult for me, as an ex-soldier, to hear the words that were said and their context".

However, the MP said he reiterated his support for the prime minister's apology.

'Anger'

Mr Hopkins also wrote in the Yorkshire Post about his views of Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness' journey from paramilitary to politician.

"I was at a meeting at the Tory Party conference recently [in 2010] with Sinn Féin's deputy leader Martin McGuinness.

"I have to tell you of the absolute revulsion and anger that I felt when he walked into the room.

"So, it is great for you politicians to do it, but for me, that moment involved a huge journey and a massive leap," Mr Hopkins wrote.

"But as he spieled his spiel, and as the media and the secretary of state challenged him, I realised that that was the place where we needed to be.

"That is why those Members should be in the House of Commons, where they can be held to account. That is the politics of the future."

The same year, he said Sinn Féin MPs should not be allowed to claim parliamentary expenses because they abstain from taking their seats at Westminster.

'Huge impact'

After leaving the Army, and before entering politics, Mr Hopkins gained a degree in communications and cultural studies and worked as a media lecturer.

He is also a keen photographer and in 2010 he wrote about how an iconic photograph, taken during Bloody Sunday, affected him.

"One that had a huge impact on me is that of Father Daly, a priest in the United Kingdom, begging for safe passage for injured people.

"What a terrible situation to have in our country."

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