UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Alamy Stock Photo

Mary Lou McDonald says Suella Braverman must 'cop on' after comments on Northern Ireland

The UK Home Secretary has also been accused of emboldening far-right protesters after some clashed with police in London today.

SUELLA BRAVERMAN NEEDS to “cop on, quite frankly”, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said when asked to respond to her comments likening pro-Palestinian protests to Northern Ireland “hate marches”.

Braverman described the marches as “assertion of primacy by certain groups… of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland”.

The British Home Secretary has been accused by Northern Ireland politicians of “stoking divisions” and having little understanding of politics in the North.

Speaking at her party’s Ard Fheis in Athlone today, McDonald said the “big difficulty” is that comments, while they create headlines, “drifts you away from the matter of real concern, and the issue here is that we need a ceasefire, like people are you dying as we speak”.

McDonald said those who have taken to the streets in London, Belfast, Dublin, and all across the world “have come in a spirit of peace and love and humanity”.

“So to label that as anyway, hateful is, to my mind, absolutely unbelievable and bizarre, quite quite frankly,” said the Sinn Féin leader. 

The British Home Secretary has been accused of emboldening far-right protesters after some clashed with police in London today, with calls growing for Rishi Sunak to sack her.

Braverman has been under fire for stoking tensions by branding pro-Palestinian demonstrators “hate marchers” and accusing the police of bias for letting the march go ahead on the day commemorating the end of the First World War.

Pressure mounted on the Cabinet minister as the Metropolitan Police said officers had faced “aggression” from counter-protesters ahead of Saturday’s service in Whitehall.

Calls to resign

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said Braverman had encouraged them with her inflammatory rhetoric and urged her to resign.

He tweeted: “The far right has been emboldened by the Home Secretary. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They are now attacking the police on Armistice Day.

“The Home Secretary’s position is untenable. She must resign.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The scenes of disorder we witnessed by the far-right at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the Home Secretary’s words. The police’s job has been made much harder.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for “calm”, with a veiled swipe at Braverman for fuelling tensions.

She tweeted: “Everyone must reflect on the impact of their words and actions. It is the responsibility of all of us to bring people together over this weekend not divide and inflame.”

Sunak has so far maintained confidence in Braverman, even as the latest row came after some ministers distanced themselves from her claims some people were homeless as a “lifestyle choice”.

There has been speculation that the Prime Minister will carry out a ministerial reshuffle, which could see Braverman moved, but not before next week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Rwanda deportation policy championed by her.

Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP who has family in Gaza, laid blame for any trouble caused by far-right groups at Sunak’s door.

She tweeted: “As the police in central London work to contain the far-right, and everyone starts to blame Suella Braverman, just remember who chose to not only give her the job but also chose not to sack her.

“Rishi Sunak is as, if not more, responsible for what happens today”.

Clashes in London

Clashes broke out as police attempted to stop a crowd of people bearing St George’s flags from reaching the Cenotaph war memorial this morning, but the group pushed through, with some shouting “let’s have them” as officers hit out with batons.

The Met Police posted on X, formerly Twitter: “While the two minutes’ silence was marked respectfully and without incident on Whitehall, officers have faced aggression from counter-protesters who are in the area in significant numbers.”

The Met later said they had detained a “large group” of counter-protesters near Westminster Bridge who are believed to be part of the group involved in the disorder.

Further clashes between people chanting “England ’til I die” and officers took place near Westminster underground station and in Chinatown.

britains-home-secretary-suella-braverman-listens-to-britains-prime-minister-rishi-sunak-as-he-hosts-a-policing-roundtable-at-10-downing-street-london-thursday-oct-12-2023-james-manningpool-ph A Downing Street spokeswoman said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “has confidence” in Braverman, but did not rule out a Cabinet reshuffle. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Braverman rowed back her language on the eve of Armistice Day, giving police her “full backing” at a meeting with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley.

It came after her article in The Times, in which she claimed officers “play favourites” towards pro-Palestinian protesters, was disowned by Downing Street and provoked fury among Tory MPs.

Braverman also wrote that “pro-Palestinian mobs” are “largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law”, while aggressive right-wing protesters are met with a stern response by officers, whom she accused of “double standards”.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt distanced himself from her comments, signalling Cabinet unease by telling reporters “the words that she used are not words that I myself would have used”.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “has confidence” in Braverman, but did not rule out a Cabinet reshuffle.

While Steve Hartshorn, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales – which represents rank and file officers, said it was unacceptable for the Home Secretary “to publicly attempt to tamper with the operational independence of policing”.

In a statement, Hartshorn said that “policing must be free of politics”.

“It is entirely reasonable that the Home Secretary might raise concerns with senior police leaders in private, it is unacceptable to publicly attempt to tamper with the operational independence of policing,” he said.

“Policing must be free of politics. Operational independence is a key pillar of UK policing and must be respected.

“Policing does not comment on political manoeuvrings, and we expect to be able to carry out our duties without political interference.”

With reporting by Christina Finn and Jane Moore

Press Association