DUP MP Sammy Wilson criticises Karen Bradley over press stance

By Gareth Gordon
BBC News NI Political Correspondent

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image captionThe secretary of state has criticised by the NUJ for not taking questions at press conferences

The NI secretary's refusal to answer journalists' questions gives the impression Stormont talks are being driven by the Irish government, DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said.

He and fellow MP Kate Hoey criticised Karen Bradley in the House of Commons.

Mrs Hoey compared her stance to the Irish foreign minister taking questions for "half an hour".

Mrs Bradley said she was not prepared to jeopardise the possible restoration of devolved government.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, she came under attack from MPs after making a statement on the progress of the talks.

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image captionEast Antrim MP Sammy Wilson challenged Mrs Bradley in the House of Commons on Tuesday

Mr Wilson asked if she accepted that, by refusing to answering questions and "giving the role" to Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, she was "allowing the impression to be given that these talks are being driven by the Irish Republic and not in the hands of the UK government".

Northern Ireland-born Labour MP Kate Hoey said that it "does look bad when she does not answer questions and the foreign secretary of the Republic of Ireland answers questions for half an hour".

But Mrs Bradley said it was her view that "the more speculation that there is in the press and elsewhere about these matters, the less chance we have of restoring devolved government".

"I'm not prepared to do anything that jeopardises the possibility of restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland," she added.

Mrs Bradley said that she "will always have the utmost respect for the press" and that "as the former culture minister, I was an absolute advocate for press freedom".

"The press are very welcome to scrutinise me and question me at length, as they regularly do, but on these matters I am not prepared to do anything that makes it harder for his party and others to do what I know they want to do, which is to go back into government," she said.

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