Robert Bradford (Northern Irish politician)

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Robert Bradford
Robert Bradford.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Belfast South
In office
1974–1981
Preceded by Rafton Pounder
Succeeded by Martin Smyth
Personal details
Born Robert Jonathan Bradford
(1941-06-08)8 June 1941
Limavady, Northern Ireland
Died 14 November 1981(1981-11-14) (aged 40)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Political party Ulster Unionist Party
Spouse(s) Norah Bradford
Children Claire
Religion Evangelical Methodist

Robert Jonathan Bradford (8 June 1941 – 14 November 1981) was a Vanguard Unionist and Ulster Unionist Member of Parliament for the Belfast South constituency in Northern Ireland until his assassination by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on 14 November 1981.

Footballer[edit]

Bradford was born on 8 June 1941 to a Belfast family resident in Limavady, County Londonderry, due to the wartime evacuation. Bradford's father left the family not long after his birth and his mother died so he was raised by foster parents. A talented footballer, Bradford signed for Glenavon F.C. as a teenager and his displays soon attracted the attentions of top English side Sheffield Wednesday F.C, who invited him to a trial. However, Bradford was not signed by the club and returned to Northern Ireland to resume his career with the then Belfast-based club Distillery.

Religion[edit]

Bradford gave up football in 1964, after deciding to train to become a Methodist minister. After spending the rest of the 1960s attached to congregations in East Belfast and Fivemiletown, Bradford was fully ordained in 1970 and given his own parish in the Suffolk area of southwest Belfast. Bradford would later be removed from post in the late 1970s and would spend the final years of his life without a church. During these years he came to spend time in the 'Bible belt' of the United States and became associated with Evangelicalism. Nevertheless Bradford claimed to always remain at heart a Methodist and also rejected suggestions that he was to join Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church (which he never did).[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

Bradford first became involved with unionism in 1971 when he joined the Orange Order. From here he became more involved in the political side of the movement and stood as a candidate for the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, 1973 in South Antrim, although he was not elected. Bradford was first elected as Member of Parliament for South Belfast in the February 1974 British general election, this time under the banner of the United Ulster Unionist Council (an alliance between the Vanguard, the Democratic Unionist Party and the anti-Brian Faulkner Ulster Unionists under Harry West), defeating the sitting MP Rafton Pounder, a pro-Faulkner Unionist. His campaign had been openly supported by the British National Front and, at a September 1974 NF Rally, Martin Webster read out a letter of solidarity from Bradford.[1]

Bradford greatly increased his majority in the October election, after Pounder dropped out, and largely maintained this increased majority in 1979. Between 1974 and 1978 he sat for the Vanguard Party until in February 1978 he joined the Ulster Unionist Party (then commonly called the Official Unionist Party), along with Vanguard leader William Craig and most of the membership. He was re-elected in 1979 for the UUP.[citation needed]

Death[edit]

A mural dedicated to Bradford, Oak Street off Belfast's Donegall Pass

Bradford was shot dead by the IRA on 14 November 1981 in a community centre in Finaghy, Belfast, while hosting a political surgery. Kenneth Campbell, the 29-year-old Protestant caretaker in the centre, was also shot dead in the attack.

Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald made an expression of sympathy in Dáil Éireann (the parliament of the Republic of Ireland) stating:[2]

I would like to refer to the brutal murder, by the Provisional IRA, of the Reverend Robert Bradford, MP in Belfast on Saturday last. His death and that of Mr. Ken Campbell, caretaker at the Finaghy Community Centre, are part of a calculated series of atrocities committed in recent days. I know that all the people we represent share the sense of sorrow, anger and outrage widely felt in Northern Ireland at present.

The killing of an elected representative of the people calls for particular condemnation in the strongest possible terms and serves to remind us of the real objectives of the organisation responsible. The IRA has once again shown its utter contempt for human life and for the democratic process which it has recently sought to distort for its own ends. Its true attitude to democracy and freedom was summed up in a recent statement of an IRA spokesman who, when asked by an interviewer for a foreign newspaper about the wishes of the people in this part of the country concerning an aspect of reunification, replied, “We call the shots. We don't really give a damn what they want”.

His seat was won by Martin Smyth, also of the Ulster Unionists, in a by-election in 1982. A book about Bradford's life, A sword bathed in heaven: The life, faith, and cruel death of the Rev. Robert Bradford B. Th. M.P. (1984), was written by his widow, Norah. It dealt largely with his path to Methodism, although also examined his political career and assassination.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bradford, Norah. A sword bathed in heaven: The life, faith, and cruel death of the Rev. Robert Bradford B. Th. M.P. (Pickering paperbacks; 1984). Pickering and Inglis; ISBN 0720805805/ISBN 978-0720805802

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nigel Fielding, The National Front, p. 182, Taylor & Francis, 1981; ISBN 0-7100-0559-8
  2. ^ Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Debates - Volume 330 - 17 November 1981

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Rafton Pounder
Member of Parliament for Belfast South
1974–1981
Succeeded by
Martin Smyth